On Wednesday, Fort Lauderdale, Florida became the latest American city to pass a measure restricting food distribution to the homeless, part of a growing trend in the country over the past several years.
The measure, whose passage elicited protests from outraged residents, prohibits feeding sites from operating within 500 feet of each other or 500 feet from any residential area. But while the prohibition isn't total, the restriction reflects a belief that homeless people are better served in facilities that also provide mental health and drug rehabilitation services.
"Street feeding is one of the worst things you can do, because it keeps people in homeless status," Robert Marbut, a consultant who advises cities on homelessness, told NPR.
But opponents of these restrictions argue that such comprehensive facilities are insufficient in helping the homeless. Then there's the issue of punishment: Do cities really want to punish individuals for the crime of feeding hungry people? Earlier this year, a couple in Daytona Beach, Florida were fined a total of $746 and banned from a city park after violating a city ordinance against providing the homeless with free food.
The National Coalition on the Homeless released a report on Monday arguing that having access free food does not incentivize the homeless to remain on the street.