Sean Cononie presents Arnold Abbott with Advocate of the Year Award
Arnold Abbot, a 91-year-old activist who feeds the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, traveled to Washington, DC to receive an award in recognition for his work in providing meals for the homeless. He has been working to reverse an ordinance instituted in Fort Lauderdale, which places restrictions on where the homeless may be fed within city limits.
While defying the ordinance and being fined repeatedly, Abbot has spoken out about it and has even sued the city to have the ordinance repealed; after putting the ordinance on hold, a judge ruled Thursday that the hold would be lifted and the ordinance would again be implemented by law enforcement. Ironically, this judgment came while Abbot was in DC being recognized by a national advocacy organization for the homeless.
During his visit to the capital, Abbot continued to advocate for the homeless, insisting that they are often swept under the rug even though they should enjoy the same rights as anyone else enjoys. He initially made headlines across the nation when he continued to feed Fort Lauderdale’s homeless while disregarding the restrictions the city had imposed through its ordinance.
He was fined repeatedly for continuing to feed the homeless on Fort Lauderdale Beach, but continued his crusade to feed those who would otherwise not be able to eat. Speaking of the ordinance, Abbot says the city has the right to pass such ordinances even though they are unfair and that he is working toward changing it.
While in the nation’s capital, Abbot went to visit a community kitchen called the DC Central Kitchen. It offers about 5,000 meals every day to those in need at no cost, while also providing job training in culinary skills to unemployed individuals seeking to find better opportunities in the culinary job market. Abbot has based his organization, called Love Thy Neighbor, on the motto of the DC Central Kitchen and said he was “very curious to see how they operate and see by comparison how we’re doing with them.”
Love Thy Neighbor also strives to provide culinary skills training and other educational tools for the Fort Lauderdale community.
Of his Advocate of the Year award, Abbot says it felt “very good” to be recognized for his efforts and that he plans to put the award itself in the office of Fort Lauderdale’s mayor, Jack Seiler “the first thing on Monday morning, so he can look at it.”