FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — To Arnold Abbot, feeding the homeless in a public park in South Florida was an act of charity.

But to the city of Fort Lauderdale, the 90-year-old man was committing a crime.

Abbott and two South Florida ministers were arrested last weekend as they handed out food. They were charged with breaking a new ordinance restricting public feeding of the homeless, and each faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

“One of the police officers said, ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I were carrying a weapon,” Abbott said.

The conflict pits organizations with charitable intentions against residents and businesses who don’t want their neighborhoods to become magnets for the homeless.

Fort Lauderdale is the latest U.S. city to pass restrictions on feeding homeless people in public places. Advocates for the homeless say that the cities are fighting to control increasing homeless populations but that simply passing ordinances doesn’t work.

“Street feeding programs don’t work,” said Robert Marbut, a consultant and expert on homelessness in the U.S. “Outlawing it doesn’t work, either. … You’re never going to have a good day arresting a priest.”

In the past two years, more than 30 cities have tried to introduce laws similar to Fort Lauderdale’s. The efforts come as more veterans face homelessness and after two harsh winters drove homeless people south, especially to Florida, Marbut said.

In Fort Lauderdale, the arrests haven’t deterred Abbott, Dwayne Black and Mark Sims. The ministers were back at church Wednesday preparing meals for a feeding at a public park later that night.

Mayor Jack Seiler said he thinks the three have good intentions, but that the city can’t discriminate in enforcing the law.