Editor's Note: Since this incident—first reported in the Northwest Florida Daily News—occurred, Fort Walton Beach city officials have considered changes to their rules.
Two ladies, Gloria Donaldson and Marti Stacken, out of the goodness in their hearts, purchased, prepared and distributed lunch to the homeless at the Landing in Fort Walton Beach for the past six months. Last week, the police shut them down as they didn't have the $100 per day "gathering permit."
Apparently, being a Good Samaritan is against the law if one doesn't pay $5,200 per year for a permit to distribute food once a week.
Like many of you, I was appalled that Fort Walton Beach has such a law on the books. It is illegal to feed the homeless at a city park without a $100 "permit." I don't find fault with the police officers doing their job, however, it appears that Fort Walton Beach would rather fatten their city coffers than allow the hungry to be fed.
Have any of the Fort Walton Beach City Council members or the city manager, Michael Beedie, ever been hungry, jobless, felt desperate or needed help? It appears there is no compassion for those who are struggling. The city would rather charge those who have Christian charity and are obeying their Lord in order to distribute food to the hungry.
Are the police now going to be directed to all of the local fast food restaurants to make sure that some well-meaning customer doesn't buy a meal for a homeless person without that $100 permit?
It is wonderful that churches are feeding the hungry and homeless at their facilities, however, unless one has a car (most homeless don't), how are these people going to get to the churches?
Mr. Beedie doesn't like the "beating" the city of Fort Walton Beach is taking over this situation. The negative publicity is well deserved. Mr. Beedie and the city council don't seem to have any concern for those who are hungry. And Mr. Beedie's comment about food safety was laughable.
Get some compassion, Fort Walton Beach! Perhaps the city council would like to take a second day a week to feed the homeless? It will take the churches, volunteers and the city working together to solve the problem of hunger and homelessness, not slapping fees on those in the trenches.
Thank goodness Crestview doesn't have a law like this on their books!
Janice Lynn Crose, a former accountant, lives in Crestview with her husband, Jim; her two rescue collies, Shane and Jasmine; and two cats, Kathryn and Prince Valiant.