FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A judge Tuesday issued a 30-day stay on Fort Lauderdale’s enforcement of new restrictions on feeding homeless people and ordered all sides into mediation to resolve an issue that has brought the city a storm of unpleasant international attention.

The decision came in the case of Arnold Abbott, the 90-year-old World War II veteran and retired jewelry salesman who has been feeding homeless people at the beach for years.

Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch ordered the city to temporarily stop enforcement of the law that took effect Oct. 31 that limits where outdoor feeding sites can be located, requires the permission of property owners and says groups distributing food must provide portable toilets.

“We’re elated the judge has entered the stay,” said John David, Abbott’s attorney.

Mayor Jack Seiler said he wanted to wait to see a copy of the judge’s order before commenting.

“I don’t have a transcript,” Seiler said. “I don’t know what he said.”


Arnold’s group, Love Thy Neighbor, which has been feeding the homeless for 23 years, defied the ban, as did other groups such as Food Not Bombs.

The Rev. Mark Sims, of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, who has also been cited by the city for feeding the homeless, said the judge’s decision will allow all sides the opportunity to work toward a solution.

“I’m very pleased,” said Sims, who has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the enforcement of the ordinance. “I think it’s a great first step for the city to sit down with a more varied group of people to work out a plan so we can provide food for everyone who is hungry in the city, not just those who are in the large shelters.”

He said he planned to join other advocates downtown Tuesday evening to offer food to homeless people in Stranahan Park.

Under pressure from residents and downtown businesses, the city has adopted a series of restrictions on homeless people, banning sleeping in parks, panhandling at busy intersections, storing possessions outdoors and defecating or urinating in public without proper disposal.

City officials have said the restrictions still allow the distribution of food but through institutions that can do it without degrading the city’s quality of life.

The Broward County Commission issued a news release on the controversy Tuesday, inviting anyone interested to attend a meeting Wednesday of its advisory board on homelessness, the Broward County Continuum of Care Board.

County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, the commission’s liaison to the board, said the county has been working for years to end homelessness and that “media hype” over the feeding issue has painted an unfair picture of the region’s approach to the problem.

“The homeless ordinance in Fort Lauderdale is generating a lot of misinformation about addressing homelessness throughout the entire county,” she said.

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