On Trial for ... Feeding the Homeless!

Eric Montanez, a 22-year-old activist, is on trial ... for feeding the homeless in downtown Orlando, Florida!

It's the first trial of its kind. A man is facing a judge and jury for violating Orlando's ban on feeding the homeless. Eric Montanez, 22, was caught feeding a group in Lake Eola Park earlier this year. The prosecution told Eyewitness News their case rests on video taken of Montanez feeding the homeless, breaking Orlando's feeding ban. [...]

Montanez and the group he's involved with, Food Not Bombs, returned to Lake Eola just after sunrise to once again violate the ordinance that has him on trial. Food Not Bombs volunteers served breakfast to about 100 Montanez supporters, most of them homeless. They will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner during what they're calling a three-day "ladle fest," not a protest.

Link (with video)


Hi folks, been awhile, because I have been homeless, in Orlando, living at the Salvation Army. Just got on my feet in Jacksonville, and yes I was there when they arrested him, threw him to the ground and brutalized actually. Not just once, but several different times.
The city of Orlando has a problem, and it is violation of basic human rights. You see, it all started when Glenda Hood was mayor, the same Hood who works closely with G.W. Bu,ll,shit. Well, you see there was a very large place for low income people, and she had them thrown out and the place was torn down for non other than a law college.
That left a couple hundred people on the street, and it steam rolled. The idea is, be mean and the homeless will go away. Right, go away to hobo cities in the woods, under bridges, in the bushes right next to interstate 4.
Now I agree that some have no intention of changing and coming back to society. Would you, if society treated you in such a manner?
It is a tough nut to crack, and if given the chance to relate my story of 6 weeks on the street, I surely would.
All in all, if you can't get a leg up, then Orlando will break that leg.
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If wolfboy is so intent on helping the homeless, why doesn't he invite them to his house for dinner or a big cookout on his own property.

The twerp got in trouble because he violated a ban on mass feedings in a PUBLIC PARK. If he is so devoted to the cause, why won't he feed them in his own home?
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I'm sorry to hear about your situation Tim Giachetti! I hope everything will work out soon.

Re: moderation, Neatorama's blogging engine wordpress has a built in filter that will automatically put comments it suspects is spam in a moderation queue.

Unless it's plain dumb (like typing a single letter or word hundreds of time in a row) or profane without any point (yeah, we get those), your comment will be approved. It may take a while, since we have to look at the comment manually, but we don't censor comments because we don't agree with the commenter's point of view.
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What is wrong with everyone? This man was getting off of his priviledged butt and helping others out and all some of you can do is make fun of his sideburns??? While I do not applude the fact that he broke the law (which I think is a dumb law)I do give him props for be willing to give some of his time to help others. Everyone should be doing that. My family and I feed the homeless downtown in our City and they are wonderful people who are having a hard time.
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Its a pretty silly idea really. Stop feeding the homeless...and then what? What exactly is supposed to happen when they're no longer helped?

They die?
They just... disapear?
They just go out and get jobs/addresses magically?
If the intent is to force homeless to resort to shelters and conform to rules therein. It just won't work that way.
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April, if you think this is a dumb law, and I would agree with that, then you should applaud breaking it. Breaking them is what you're supposed to do with dumb laws, loudly and publically. It's called civil disobedience, and is a cornerstone of healthy democracy. You think Rosa Parks should have obeyed the law?
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The intent is to force the homeless to go elsewhere and be someone else's problem, not bothering the happy guests of the Magic Kingdom.

It seems that harassing people for doing good work is now the order of the day for those that think of homeless people as "Other".

Whatever happeneed to, "There but for the grace of God go I?"
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It's scary how *easy* it is to become homeless in America. I used to think that they're just lazy bums, but I've come to realize that without a family (and friends) "safety net," we're all just one sickness, accident, lawsuit away from being homeless.
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It's ridiculous. I live in Cincinnati. A few years ago, they instituted a law stating that you have to have a permit to panhandle. If you don't have one and they catch you, its a $50 fine.
If you're panhandling, clearly, you DON'T have $50.
Also, in some parts of the city, the homeless and transient are regularly submitted to area "sweeps" where they are forced out or arrested.
Every day I am disgusted more and more by humans.

And I think he had every right to break that law. It's a peaceful protest, civil disobedience.
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Our church sponsors a monthly lunch 'for the homeless'. When I describe it to people, I say that it is an 'open invitation' church picnic. We don't screen people and ask if they are homeless enough to qualify, we just feed all comers. OK, well my wife and our children do put flyers out at the shelter.

Our city has been very quietly cooperative with our effort, basically looking the other way. When the occasional police car comes by and asks if things are OK (we get a group of 60 - 150 people), we just say that our church is having a picnic, and offer to give them lunch.

Above all, this is a ministry of simple humanity. It is a terrible thing to be told to 'move along' all the time, and it is sometimes almost as bad to be treated with pity. Our one lunch a month will have no significant nutritional impact, but there's something nice about being welcome for an afternoon.

BTW, Alex is quite right about how easy it is to become homeless. I recall an article in Time magazine about people who live on the fringes of our society (which is located in Needles, CA for the purpose of the article). The reporter described a man who was a doctor at a hospital, but now does odd jobs and lives in a motel.

I tell people that the difference between being Chief of Surgery at a major hospital and living on the street is a patch of ice on the sidewalk. One day, the Chief steps out of his house and slips on the ice, injuring his back. He has physical therapy and has to take pain meds all the time. His attention wanders through a combination of pain and medication, and he makes a critical error of judgment on the job. A lawsuit results in a loss of status and money. He starts self-prescribing. His work deteriorates until the hospital board terminates him. His behavior becomes more and more erratic, and he loses his license. His wife divorces him because he is becoming dangerous to be around. He starts to drink in excess. He presents so poorly at the divorce proceedings, and his depression makes him uncaring for the outcome, so he basically loses everything. This spirals further and further until he is living in a motel in Needles, making occasional money by washing trucks.

All for a patch of ice on a cold morning.

It can take almost nothing to become homeless. Many of our friends have had job-related head injuries, and cannot hold down a job. They appear to be able-bodied, and I am sure that they can do a full day's work four days a week; but not the same four days. Our society and economy has no place for such people, and without a place, they are cut adrift. Others lack the ability to concentrate and follow through, and so cannot obtain the necessary public services because they cannot complete the paperwork.

I have almost had a PhD in molecular biology, but my depression almost killed me twice. I do not follow through well at all, and I was becoming a danger to my family. If my wife had decided to let me 'take my chances', I'd be on the street now. Instead, I now have a rather tenuous stability and a steady job. I always have to be careful about my thoughts and attitudes, and I always, always have to keep up with my medication; no matter how normal I may be feeling. The barrier between my life now and homelessness is paper-thin.
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Sorry Daniel Kim that's not "just" the patch of Ice in the scenario you just described. That's a series of poor decisions. I'm not saying that homeless people don't need help I do say however a "free" meal comes with a price. There are programs in every major city in the U.S. and from many many different churches and private organizations to properly help people get back on their feet. They just need to meet their help halfway.
By giving money and food to homeless people and not giving it to the organizations that are properly equipped to actually help them in a much more profound way you're actually doing more harm than good. That's what these laws are set up to do. It's not just to drive them away. It's set up to do some real good instead of the warm and fuzzy feel good that people get because they really "care" about the homeless.

Do the homeless a favor and support the organizations that actually make a difference and don't just enable people.
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I agree with Mokuwai--look what trouble Jesus got into. He should have just donated to 'organizations that are properly equipped to actually help them in a much more profound way' instead of all that loaves and fishes bullshit.
Instead of just beating and prosecuting these do-gooders, maybe Orlando should just crucify them.
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regarding Sid Morrison's comment:

Yes, it is a PUBLIC PARK. That means it belongs to everyone. Us. Them. The homeless too. Get it.

BTW, Mokuwai, many organizations which claim to help the homeless just want to preach their brand of extremist religion. Should a hungry person be forced to kneel before your god to be fed?!@#^!
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Normally, I don't engage in extended dialog here; I just make extensive comments. I am afraid that Mokuwai missed a key point:

Many of the guests at our picnic are physically impaired by traumatic brain injury. They are really unable to meet their help halfway. One would think that such an injury would make them eligible for services for the occupationally disabled. For instance, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation could provide them with retraining and placement services, as well as hooking them up with medical services and housing assistance. But the process of entering such a program involves paperwork that makes your income taxes look simple. Besides, who normally knows that the DVR program even exists? Do you know where your local DVR office is located? If you have an occupational injury; perhaps a fall from a scaffold, or an accidental chemical exposure; but it is not acute and immediately debilitating, there will be no diagnosis of "traumatic brain injury" to trip the system into offering help. Instead, you may suffer from more subtle effects like loss of concentration and short-term memory. You may have partial petite-mal seizures that cannot be recognized by your family, co-workers or doctors. Such seizures may cause temporary personality changes, making you suddenly stubborn, hostile and insubordinate. Without diagnosis and treatment, when treatment even exists, you may attempt to self-medicate by using alcohol or other drugs. These often give short-term relief, but have long-term debilitative consequences of their own.

Without a knowledgeable observer who is willing to act as an unpaid, informal caseworker and advocate, a person suffering from such an injury will simply appear to have developed a poor attitude. They will be labeled as having a 'chip on their shoulder' and a drinking problem. A definitive diagnosis can be made by arranging for an EEG, but it won't be observable unless a seizure occurs while the EEG is in progress. This means it is necessary to have a series of EEG tests done under different conditions intended to induce seizure.

Lets see, you first go to your primary care physician (PCP) for an initial visit, and get a referral to a neurologist. Then you see the neurologist to arrange for an EEG. If there is no seizure at the time of testing, you need to go back to your PCP and convince them that you need another neuro referral. Each appointment takes several hours and involves a co-payment, but your insurance policy may reject repeated neurological evaluations after an initial negative result, so you may have to pay for your subsequent evaluations out of pocket (your insurance will reimburse you for the covered amounts after the fact, if a positive result is discovered). So, even if you have good medical coverage, you may be out hundreds of dollars and a couple of weeks' worth of time. Good luck if you do not have insurance; and who is aware that a negative EEG may only indicate that you didn't have a seizure at the time of testing?

This scenario involves a clear case of brain injury, but is almost impossible to diagnose and treat unless you have a knowledgeable person who understands the significance of occasional headaches and personality change, and is willing to press the system for a series of expensive tests. It also assumes that some resources exist to pay for it all. (Yes, we have had occasion to do this for people. It is a nightmare to make the system work, and sometimes there is no effective treatment in the end).

Mokuwai does not seem to understand that it is very easy and natural to make a series of bad decisions. A single poor or uninformed decision can lead to a cascade of events that can leave an intelligent, healthy and educated person on the street in less than five years. It is tempting to believe that 'other' people are homeless because they did 'bad' things or made 'bad' decisions. Such beliefs are reassuring, because we can say to ourselves 'I will not fall to such depths, because I make right decisions'. It is important to realize that even the strongest and best-prepared of us can be vulnerable, and it doesn't take much for it to happen.

In The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable. . . ." (Follow the link to read it).

Oh, finally, I think it is terribly naive to believe that laws against feeding the poor are intended to lead people to appropriate services and agencies.
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What a wonderful out pouring of reality most of you have shown, I applaud you all.
And Rob, you made me pee my no longer homeless pants with that comment. lol
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It's almost uncanny. One of the states with the largest count of Christians forbids feeding the poor and homeless. Did I miss the part in the Bible where Jesus said "Leave the poor to fend for themselves and die"?
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There was the time when the woman poured expesnive perfume on Jesus' feet, and when his disciples complained, saying, "She should have sold it and given the money to the poor", Jesus replied, "We'll always have poor people. You don't get to see me very often."

The whole "patch of ice" bit is fearmongering. Homeless people are often homeless because of poor decisions made in life, not random events. The doctor chose to start drinking after his accident, in the example quoted above.

I do agree that the lack of a network or support would also be a big factor.
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So nobody answers why this guy doesn't feed people on his own property... I can tell you the answer. He was trying to get arrested and make a general pest out of himself. He's an attention grubbing little twerp, and little else. If he really wanted to help the homeless, he would start a business and seek to EMPLOY them. Instead, wolfboy craves being in the spotlight.
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Sid, when you move out of your mothers house, and get a life, hopefully you will never be down on your luck. I'm disabled and through trusting a loved one my bank account was emptied and i found myself between disability checks.
You speak as if all these people actually could hold a job, and nothing could be further from the truth. You speak with lack of insight and experience. One day you will grow to be a man, and when that day comes you will be seeing life from being one of the soup line, waiting for the local politics to change to help you. In the mean time, you really show how shallow your thinking is. God forbid one of your own needs help because I just don't see you doing a damned thing to help them.
And to answer your question, the feeding at Lake
Eola was going on for years, fully legal, it changed when the rich, clean owners of local condos felt that the unwashed don't belong in their world. Last I checked, public park is just that, Public. The people whined, and the local government chose the money over humanity. Grow up, and you're the twerp.
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Move out of my mother's house? Huh? That's a stupid comment... I've owned my own house for 12 years and haven't lived with my parents since I was 18, when I went away to college.

If the homeless under discussion can't hold even a simple job (raking leaves, picking up litter, etc.) and don't want to live in one of the multitude of charity shelters, they frankly should be institutionalized and/or forcibly detoxed. Having them staggering about on the streets (usually drunken, drugged, or otherwise irrational & inebriated) using the world as their latrine isn't safe for them or the rest of us.

Mass feedings of the feral was prohibited at the park in question, because it encourages large masses them to congregate, create a danger of others, and leave unsanitary messes about. There are shelters and foodkitchens (and dozens of government dole programs) for the lazy and plenty of psychiatric facilities for the demented. Use them. If you want to be an advocate for the homeless that is fine. Start by bringing them into your home or doing things to help them behind closed doors -- maybe get them the mental help most of them need.

This guy is all about getting attention for himself. He's like a politician (all political parties do this) that show up to "work the soup kitchen" for an hour with a huge camera crew in tow. And since a number of you like to wield the Bible as a weapon, I'll offer Matthew 6:1:4 "Take heed that ye do not do your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven..." I've quoted only the first verse, but keep reading as it warns against being a hypocrite who sounds a trumpet every time he gives alms; rather, do good works in secret and not for the attention of men or to be noticed...

So there!
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Sid, dont think that people didnt answer you becuase your question was so bold- people were just being polite.
Kudos to those of you with souls- damnation on the rest of you.
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I live in Orlando. There are many organizations which feed the Homeless. I was hands on and in charge of my Church's participation with the Homeless Coalition for five years until the death of my only child.

What is not being reported is that the city is happy to have any organization feed the Homeless. But they do not want them fed in Lake Eola park. The city is just trying to keep the park clean and as safe as possible.

If Eric Montanez really wanted to help the Homeless, he would work WITH the city to find a suitable place to provide the meals.

Why is the park the only place he is willing to feed the Homeless? Perhaps he is more interested in breaking the law and making a name for himself than helping those in need.
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To Sid: Resorting to breast beating and the size of your manhood doesn't discount the fact that you are emotionally underage.
Resorting to calling human beings "feral" is the best argument you have supplied us all here with how you really tick. Again, Grow up.
Dee: They have tried other places for these feeds and the OPD busted him for that too, as well as other groups.
About the Coalition for the Homeless. You have never stayed there Dee. For a dollar you get a 1 inch thick mat to sleep on a concrete floor. Rape, beatings and theft are the norm for there. Sorry about your only child, but you just don't get it do you.
The Salvation Army charges 9 bucks a night for the first 30 days. 12 a night after 30 to 60 days and 15 there after. The Mens Mission, right outside the downtown head quarters for the Orlando Police charges 6 bucks a night and doesn't help these people get jobs. Example: The line to get in starts at noon. Why? Because it's all about getting the money. They don't even float the sign up clip board until 2P.M. and don't let the men in until 3 P.M.
So, sending people out in the elements at 5:30 A.M. they can't even fill applications for jobs until 9 in the morning when normal business hours start. That gives them a whopping 3 hours to get a job, a life, and a place to live.
That leaves labor halls, daily pay places. Operators of such places will send out their friends rather than a new face, or for that matter, some one who may have better qualifications.
After taxes that may leave that person a check for 38 bucks.
Reading all these reasons "feral" people don't belong is the reason they do belong. They have rights, such as gatherings in public parks.
None of you have a moral clue.
You just have to love political conservatives. Piss on you both.
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Amen Sid-

And Daniel, I didn't miss the point. I think you missed mine. If you want to rationalize peoples failings as not being their own fault, that's fine. I just don't agree with you. I think they need help just the same, but if you choose to look at them as victims instead of identifying the underlying causes than you only compound the situations.

There are many many programs out there to help people that don't "make a hungry person be forced to kneel before your god to be fed". These programs do however offer more than a bandaid solution to systemic problems. They offer more than a full belly. Our church has an employment center and many good people out there who are willing to lend a true helping hand to those in need without any questions asked. I know that to be true of my church as well as many other groups out there. I've spent a lot of time volunteering and helping people in a way that really makes a difference. If all someone needs is a hot meal than there are many places for them to go. But sadly more than not these people need a lot more than that. Most soup kitchens and homeless shelters work very closely with employment centers, drug re-hab centers, mental re-hab centers, and family resource specialists. The stunt this guy is pulling is more politically motivated than it is out of the "goodness of his heart"
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The thing to remember is that some homeless people aren't ALWAYS going to be homeless. Some aren't lazy, but are just having a crappy time atm, and a little extra help via a sandwich or a donation can help them ride out the storm a little longer till better weather comes along.

I went to an art college in Seattle in 94-96. I saw a LOT of students flunk out. Some had entered too soon (too young and weren't ready), Some were lured in by advertising and really had NO talent, many were amazing artists who just really sucked at math or wouldn't turn in assignments that weren't art related.

I knew a few personally that went homeless, rather than go home to face mom/dad and say "I failed". I imagine, with no money, or education, no family, and no address they stay homeless for a long time. And with that sort of pride, I doubt they turned to shelters. That had to be some pretty rough weather to face.

Some artists believe in their work SO much, that they would rather be homeless than work at McDonalds when they find that the job market for artists is scarce (too many artists, too little paying jobs). I understand that's also a pride issue, but I still sympathize for them. The "struggling artist" stereotype is very real. I often wonder how those homeless kids lives turned out. Hopefully things got better.
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Tim,
Wow, it sounds like you really have a good handle on how to work the system in Orlando. It's a shame that none of the accomodations are to your liking, though. Perhaps a change in venue is in order? Try to manage the anger though... it's not going to help you retain employment. Best of luck & keep us posted. :-)
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Sid,
You don't read very well do you. If you read my first and second post you would have read that I moved to Jacksonville, on my feet, and am in fine shape.
Also I stated that I'm disabled and only ended up on the street for a very short time.
In that short time I met many shallow types like yourself who put labels on others. Sort of judging a book by it's cover.
We all here have read the book you just wrote and can see what type of person you are. Sad, sad that republicans like yourself have control of this nation. Sad, because your type seems to control the cash flow of this nation. But that is soon to change. The world despises this nation and you give the perfect example as to why. Politically we as a nation all think like you. Or at least the controlling party does.
And like yourself, losing control of yourself over what other people do and think, that's about to change.
Re-evaluate your values Sid. Karma is a total bitch, and yours will bite you in the ass.
Some day some one will see you on the street and I hope they all treat you like the "feral" uncontrolled thinker that you are as well as the way you treat others.

Oh, and about your house of 12 years: the bank owns it buckwheat, and will for the next 20 odd years. Only the mortgage is in your name, and clear title on it won't be in yours until you pay off the mortgage. A natural disaster would put you in the street. And guess what? The bank will still make you pay up, regardless if the house was demolished in the disaster.

Think hard about what you say to others. And as far as the guy grabbing news media for his cause, you just used this blog as yours. You just whored yourself out for a much less important cause: your own personal opinion.
Have a nice life Sid.

P.S. I'm never angry, it's counter productive and down right the sign of a small I.Q. Like you with your "I'm right, every one else is wrong" attitude.
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Tim-
Mortgage? What mortgage? Dude, you really must think I am someone else, because you keep coming up with very specific personal details about my life that are wrong... completely out there in fact (like me living with my mom). Are you going to tell me you hate the color of my Green Honda (which I don't own) next? Or that my beagle (which I don't have) barks too loudly? You are even sure you know my political affiliation and you've screwed that up as well. In fact I am completely independent. Yes, I do frequently vote Republican (but often Libertarian) for national elections. In local elections, though, I almost always vote (gasp) Democrat. Cold reading is not your forte, my friend :-)

Please relax a little... Maybe sit back with a cold 40 oz malt liquor or two. You get very irate very easily.

Pax teum.
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One thing I'm sure of Sid is how easy it is to bait you into ignorant comments. I've wasted enough time with leading you by the nose.
You have been amusing. However I've more important things on my agenda. Again, re-read everything on these comments and figure out why you are such a schmuck. Because you have reacted adversely to everything I've said.
You are by far the most easily led idiot I've baited thus far.

Bye bye Sid. See you in the soup line after the next Katrina.
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Wow ... Sid, you're an asshat. Seriously. I won't go into further details on this as your posts already speak in volumes. Zip your mouth and quit beating your chest like a gorilla. How about that?

Straigh talk from your mother.
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