Fort Lauderdale, Florida has some of the toughest laws against the homeless in the nation. The city has received widespread criticism for enacting laws specifically designed to get homeless people out of their borders. These laws don’t try to fix homelessness, mind you, they just attempt to force the homeless elsewhere.
In recent weeks, the city passed a measure prohibiting the storing of possessions outdoors. Legislation is currently being worked on that will outlaw soliciting at intersections and sleeping in public. The city has even placed heavy restrictions on groups trying to feed the homeless. The message from Fort Lauderdale officials to their homeless population is clear: we don’t know where you should go, but don’t stay here.
Yet despite this hostile attitude towards the homeless in the city, Fort Lauderdale police officer Rolando Rivera recently found it in his heart to help out homeless man Brian Espeut in a big way. Rivera met Espeut when the barefoot man told him his shoes had been stolen in his sleep.
"Brian, it appeared, was broken," Rivera wrote in his report of the incident. "He was pretty much in tears. He was distraught, depressed. I felt it would be negligent of me to leave Brian open to harm and with a lasting lack of trust for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department."
Rivera was on duty when Espeut approached him, the Sun Sentinel reports. But after hearing his story, Rivera vowed to help him. Once he was off work, Rivera ran up to a local store and bought Espeut a brand new pair of boots and a pack of socks.
"There, in a state of pleasant surprise and sincere appreciation, he put on the socks and boots," Rivera wrote. "They were a good fit."
His detailed report of the gesture made its way to city officials, and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department held a press conference commending his good deed. Rivera was surprised by the amount of publicity his kind act received.
"I didn't do it for the publicity," he said. "This was just an ordinary guy who needed help."
Four days after giving Espeut the boots, Rivera checked a voicemail on his phone and heard a familiar voice. It was Espeut.
"I wanted to thank you," Espeut said on the message. "I've had so many compliments from friends on my boots. The boots are great. Thank you."