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Fort Lauderdale Homeless Feeding Controversy Continues

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) -- Arnold Abbott showed up at his weekly homeless feeding on Fort Lauderdale expecting his fourth citation for feeding the homeless since the controversy began. That didn't happen. There was no confrontation with police and Abbot left without a citation.

But Fort Lauderdale Police said he'll be receiving one in the mail.

As 90-year old Chef Arnold Abbott arrived for his weekly feeding of the homeless at Fort Lauderdale Beach. Tons of food covered the tables and the homeless lined up to eat.

The only thing missing was the police. At almost every public feeding of the homeless that we've seen over the past few weeks in Fort Lauderdale the police arrived and handed out citations for violating a new city ordinance that restricts feeding the homeless in public.

CLICK HERE To Watch Carey Codd's Report

The lack of officers on Wednesday night led to optimism that the city had softened its' enforcement of the law.

"I think the public opinion has gotten to them and it's not in their favor so I think they're trying to lay back a little bit," said Abbott.

"Hopefully there's a humanitarian side to the commission where they can see that maybe we just need to back off a little bit," said Reverend Mark Sims, who was cited by police for feeding the homeless earlier this month.

But that's not the case. Late Wednesday a captain with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department told CBS4's Carey Codd that just because our cameras didn't see officers that doesn't mean police are not aware of the feeding. Captain Frank Sousa said Abbott will receive a citation in the mail.

Mayor Jack Seiler said the city will continue to enforce the ordinance. Seiler said the city wants to help the homeless and wants them fed in houses of worship in secure and sanitary conditions.

But as CBS4 News has reported, critics say there are only four nights a week where churches are feeding the homeless and that more needs to be done.

Arnold Abbott believes he won the right to feed the homeless in public years ago and he's fighting the city in court over the new law. He believes the city wants the homeless to leave.

"They have no intention of the homeless being here," Abbott told reporters. "They're only aim is to get rid of all the homeless."

Abbott said he will be back here next Wednesday night to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless.

Meanwhile, Jillian Pim, a volunteer with Food Not Bombs, which has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale's Stranahan Park for years, said she's been on a hunger strike to protest the law for 18 days. She hopes her commitment gets attention.

"If people see me starve that will make them think twice about the homeless people that will be starving with the enforcement of the ordinance," Pim said.

Also, there's another legal challenge to the law. Attorneys for Reverend Sims filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the new city ordinance on religious grounds. The attorneys are asking for the law to be tossed out.


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