Orlando continues to make worldwide news.
Here's the headline from London's Daily Mail: "Please don't feed the homeless: Good Samaritans ARRESTED and facing jail ... for handing out food."
This silly and costly war has gone on long enough. After five years, it's time for a compromise.
So on Tuesday, I tried to play the part of peacemaker.
It wasn't easy. I knew I was in trouble the first time Buddy Dyer used the phrase "food terrorists."
But I think we made some headway. First, though, the background:
Orlando has long struggled with homelessness.
For many years, the city's go-to solution was a jail cell. Instead of comprehensive solutions, the city made it a crime to panhandle after dark … or outside the little blue boxes painted on the sidewalks.
The tactics were as foolish as they were ineffective. The number of homeless residents — 40 percent of whom were families — continued to climb.
So Food Not Bombs — a loose-knit group of idealists, leftists and even socialists — decided to address the problem themselves. They'd gather at Lake Eola, a public park, and ladle out vegetarian chili to the hungry.
Businesses and residents complained. They didn't like the homeless gathering there and complaining about the public urination and trash that sometimes accompanied the events.
So the city created yet another crime — this time targeting those helping the homeless. Orlando banned "group feedings," citing the events as "detrimental to the aesthetic atmosphere of parks."
Both sides fought in court. Food Not Bombs won an early round. The city won in the end.
That brings us to Monday, when police arrested four more people for illegally wielding ladles. The activists are expected to be back tonight … when Buddy's police force will probably arrest them, too.
None of this does a thing to actually combat homelessness.
A big part of me sides with the activists for this basic reason: It simply shouldn't be a crime to help another soul in need, using your own resources in a public place.
In fact, one minister I know said that if Jesus was here today, she's pretty sure that he'd be handing out food to the hungry, no matter what Orlando City Code 18A.01 says.
Dyer argues there are plenty of other authorized places for the homeless to eat — and that other organizations do a better job of addressing the bigger issue.