These laws are intended to make the homeless problem disappear, not solve the reasons for its existence. In the rush to make our world seem perfect and our communities idealistic, our law makers have disregarded the essence of that which makes us all connected.
I remember my first encounter with a homeless person. I was with my Dad and we were helping clean up after a major flood in a nearby city. We arrived at an area where a group of people were standing on a corner. My Dad asked if they needed help cleaning their homes. They told him the park they lived in was flooded and they lost their only possessions – mostly blankets, sleeping bags and clothing, things of that type. They asked if he had any spare cardboard they could have, and maybe some tape or string so they could make a wind break.
For the next week, we continued going to the city daily to help. We took with us every day a grocery bag full of sandwiches, fruit, bottles of water and some homemade cookies. We drove by that area and gave that group the bag of food. I asked Dad why we were doing this, and who would do it if we stopped. Dad found a church in the neighborhood with an outreach program that served meals to the homeless and gave the people the address and instructions on how to get there. It was only a few blocks away, but these people had not heard of it.
Decades later, we see cities across the conservative south enact these laws that ban feeding of the homeless. What I find interesting is that this is taking place in the “Bible Belt” of the United Staes, where Christianity is the underlying ideology that moves most of the populace.
My Bible includes a passage in Matthew 25:34-46. It discusses our duty as Christians toward the “least of these my brethren” as though we were doing this to Christ. Would authorities arrest a priest for feeding the Son of God?
“Homeless activist Arnold Abbott, 90, and Christian ministers Dwayne Black of the Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale and Mark Sims of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs were handing out meals in a park on Sunday, two days after Fort Lauderdale’s ordinance took effect, when police approached them with their sirens flashing, Black said. The three were issued citations and face a $500 fine or 60 days in jail,” according to an NBC news report.
What Bible are these people reading from? How can they call themselves “Christian” when they would deny one of the most basic instructions given us directly from Jesus Himself? We believe it is only a matter of time before these laws are challenged in court on religious basis: denial of religious practices as afforded Americans in the Bill of Rights.