Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fort Lauderdale homeless problem out of control

Florida: Thanks to the inept county officials who made Fort Lauderdale a magnet for the homeless, it has predictably gotten out of control to the point where going downtown has become less than desirable.

When a homeless man uses the steps of the Women's Club as a toilet, things have gotten out of control. When the historical society has to hire security to guard a party's wedding cake from vagrants, something's got to give.

Fort Lauderdale officials said homeless people are overrunning public parks and tourist attractions like the beach, Riverwalk and Stranahan Park in front of the main library downtown. The city has to step in and do something, Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson urged this week, because it's only going to get worse as the economy plunges.

Commissioners agreed, saying Tuesday that they'll consider new rules for groups who feed homeless people, requiring cleanup, and maybe even security and a permit. Even before a law is passed, the city will ask them to stop leaving garbage in their wake.

City officials acknowledged they must tread carefully. A 1999 effort to ban feedings at the beach failed in court.

Like Hollywood and Pompano Beach in Broward County, Fort Lauderdale has struggled with its significant homeless population.

"What they're doing out there is a disgrace to the city, and I'm embarrassed to represent that area," Hutchinson said, complaining of homeless people defecating in Stranahan Park, badgering passersby and hurting business in the area.

Downtown property owners make similar complaints.

On the city's Riverwalk, designed to appeal to tourists and families, "forget it, they're everywhere," Hutchinson said. "In every bush, every cubby hole."

There are programs government and private runned to help the homeless like getting a job, shelter and apartments. But for the county officials that is just not enough and its the rest of Broward county's fault we are not compassionate enough.

In City Hall, City Manager George Gretsas had told the commission that the homeless problem isn't just one for law enforcement to shoo people away.

"They're people, many of them are people who want help, who need help," he said, suggesting a "holistic" solution should be drawn up.

Commissioner Carlton Moore told him he admired his sense of hope, but that it wasn't realistic. Not here.

"Gretsas, you're in Broward County," Moore shot back. "These people don't give a damn about other people's hardship."

People give a damn but they are not stupid enough to put up with a downtown area where homeless have run amok urinating and defecating all over the place while making people feel less than safe. This holistic solution crap is code word for even more money to be thrown at this problem that will just attract more homeless. But this is Fort Lauderdale for you.

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