On trial for feeding homeless

21 November 2014

by a staff reporter


Caution: 90-year-old Arnold P. Abbott is warned he risks imprisonment for feeding homeless people in Florida

Caution: 90-year-old Arnold P. Abbott is warned he risks imprisonment for feeding homeless people in Florida

A PRIEST in the Episcopal Church in the United States is to appear in court after defying tough new regulations in the state of Florida, restricting where and how food can be given out to homeless people.

Canon Mark Sims, Rector of St Mary Magdalene's, Fort Lauderdale, was detained alongside two others - one a 90-year-old man - for giving out food to homeless people in a city park. Under the new regulations he could face a fine or a 60-day prison sentence. The regulations, passed last month, restrict where and how food can be distributed to homeless people. Fort Lauderdale is the 13th city in the US to pass such restrictions.

Canon Sims was detained alongside the pastor of the Sanctuary Church, the Revd Dwayne Black, and Arnold Abbott, aged 90, who runs the charity Love Thy Neighbour.

A fund has been set up to help Canon Sims to pay for his court case. He has said that he will sue the city for the right to keep feeding the homeless.

He said: "If I get sentenced to jail, I'm going to jail. But I am determined to allow people to be able to compassionately feed the homeless and hungry on the streets of Florida. I don't see how we can pass an ordinance that restricts human decency."

City officials have said that they want feeding programmes moved indoors, but Canon Sims and others say that there are simply not enough locations to accommodate the growing numbers of homeless in the region.

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