the vagrant problem – Key West

Sloan at Harpoon Harry'slocal vagrant

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When I turned in last night, there was nothing on my radar screen for today and I wondered if I would get today off? I haven’t had a publishing day off in years. I wondered in vain.

The Key West Citizen Editorial Board weighed in today on Mayor Cates’ proposed new homeless shelter – www.keysnews.com, as did the golf course community’s Board of Directors, in a letter to the editor. My interjected thoughts in italics, I supplied any pics.

homeless soup kitchenSt. Mary’s soup kitchen, which serves daily at 4 p.m.

Commissioners steamroll mayor’s shelter plans

At last Tuesday’s Key West City Commission meeting, the brakes were slammed on Mayor Craig Cates’s two-year effort to create a new, 24-hour a day homeless shelter on city-owned Stock Island property.

Craig CatesCates

Cates had been confidently rolling out his idea of combining the former Easter Seals building and the building leased to the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District into what would be known as a “Mini Homeless Transformational Center.”

However, Cates’ political steamroller was missing a key component – City Commission approval of the site and plan.

Four commissioners, Clayton Lopez, Mark Rossi, Billy Wardlow and Tony Yaniz, voiced their objections, thus creating a majority roadblock for Cates’ steamroller.

Each commissioner expressed specific reasons for objecting to the location of the proposed homeless shelter.

However, one common theme clearly surfaced: There are more pressing priorities for use of taxpayer money and city-owned land.

The commissioners suggested other possible uses of the site, including an assisted living facility or a new animal shelter for the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (FKSPCA).

From our vantage point, this development is not surprising.

In fact, we have questioned why a 24-hour a day homeless shelter was catapulted to a top financial priority.

It should be noted that at this same meeting the commission dipped onto the reserve fund in order to avoid a tax hike of 2 to 3 percent on city taxpayers for 2014.

We agree with this decision to forestall a tax increase.

Dipping into the reserve fund seldom is a good idea, as the  financially dysfunctional School District has often proven. Dipping into the reserve fund has nothing to do with a homeless shelter. It has to do with the city already not having enough revenue coming in to pay its current bills.

Hopefully, this financial maneuver is a signal that commissioners realize that taxpayers’ pocketbooks are thin and that they need to focus on spending available tax dollars on the immediate needs of the citizenry.

And there are plenty of immediate needs to address.

Pray tell, how does the Commission address new immediate needs, when it has to dip into its reserve fund to pay for ongoing expenses not associated with any new immediate needs projects?

In addition to an assisted living facility, other priorities quickly come to mind.

They include developing Truman Waterfront park, converting Glynn Archer school into City Hall, and a host of other projects such as bike lanes, parking facilities, public restrooms, sidewalks, street drainage, existing park maintenance and so forth.

We recognize that the chronically homeless problem needs additional attention, and we commend Mayor Cates for his ongoing attempts to problem solve this intractable issue.

Doesn’t intractable sort of rhyme with unfixable, mission impossible? Or, does the Editorial Board have a secret cure for Key West’s homeless problem, which the Board has not yet revealed?

However, as we have indicated before, Cates’s plan to create a new 24-hour a day “Mini Homeless Transformational Center” raises more questions than it answers.

As you may recall, Robert G. Marbut Jr., Ph.D., who was hired by the city to study its homeless issue, supports creating this homeless center.

Marbut’s report proposes that the center provide services such as individualized case management, access to medical, vision, dental, substance abuse, mental health and legal services, personal clothing and property storage, hygiene services including hair cuts, daytime activities, skills training and job placement.

Sounds like a pretty costly venture, doesn’t it? Somebody will have to pay for it, yes?

What are the true costs of building, maintaining and staffing such an enterprise?

The true costs might never be known, but you can bet the conch farm, Mayor Cates never intended for the city to pay the true costs. He wanted the Sheriff, the County Commission and the various rescue the homeless non-profits to pay much of the cost, even though it was the city’s problem.

Can Marbut explain how the city can legally require the chronically homeless to engage in the center’s programs without trampling on their constitutional rights?

Of course not, because there is no way the city legally can force the homeless to live in a shelter. But then, the city could ignore the law, it has done so in the past often enough. The city could follow the Columbia, South Carolina model, and build a remote shelter, say on city-owned land on Rockland Key, and force the homeless to stay there under penalty of arrest and jailing if they leave the reservation. Who would implement that? Who would round up the city homeless and transport them to Rockland Key? Who would pay for building the concentration camp? Who would pay for the barbed wire and armed guards and German police dogs to patrol the perimeter? Who would pay for the daily cost of housing, feeding, clothing, counseling and medically providing for every last city homeless person? The county jail on Stock Island spends $86 per day, per inmate. Homeless inmates tend to cost more per day, because they tend to have more medical and chemical abuse problems. Conservatively figure $100 per day per homeless inmate at the Rockland Concentration Camp. Figure 600 homeless people, considerably less than Marbut’s estimate. Figure $100 x 600 =$60,000 per day, using the Sheriff”s numbers. What’s that a year? Get out your calculator, I don’t have one, and multiply 365 x $60,000 per day. In my head, I think that is $21,900,000 a year. I think that might be a tad more than the city’s reserve fund.

Marbut’s study blames Key West’s weather and “culture of enablement” toward the chronically homeless as the reason for the growing problem.

So, Mayor Cates gets the City Attorney to sue God in Federal Court, to get a US District Judge to enjoin God from providing Key West’s favorable weather, which attracts all of Key West’s other tourists, upon whom most of Key West’s economy depends?

He defines enablement as street feeding, distribution of clothing, goods and cash not tied to coordinated service programs.f

What do you call the subsidized housing, which much be provided to graduates from Marbut’s “transformational” homeless shelters, because they are unable to pay market rate rents? Who’s gonna pay for that subsidy? Whose gonna build that subsidized housing for graduates from the Rockland Concentration Camp? Where is that housing going to be built? Or, will there be no graduates? Will they all be gassed and cremated? Or, will they all be given one-way bus tickets to somewhere on the mainland? Gassing and burning them might slow down the influx of new homeless a tad, but Greyhounding them to the mainland will not.

Marbut recommends that the entire community change from a “culture of enablement” to a “culture of engagement,” which he maintains will reduce chronic homelessness.

However, Marbut doesn’t explain how Key West, which is visited by an average 7,500 tourists per day, can achieve this goal.

The Editorial Board blames tourists for enabling homeless to be homeless in Key West? Try food stamps. Try veteran and Social Security old age and disability benefits. Try the soup kitchens and food pantries and Salvation Army and churches. Try the fair weather. Blaming tourists for Key West’s homeless count is ridiculous.

Does he expect Key West to follow the lead of other cities that posted signs with the international red circle-backslash symbol “no” that graphically instruct people not to give money to panhandlers or not to feed the homeless?

Does anyone really believe stopping panhandling, which most homeless people in Key West do not do, will reduce homelessness in Key West? LOL stopping churches from feeding the homeless, when they know their Lord and Savior was homeless and had no place to lay down his head at night.

Jesus with leper

Clearly this plan doesn’t have any guarantees that there will be real and lasting results in solving the problem of chronically homeless, specifically the influx of out of town vagrants.

Agreed. Only by putting its homeless people into a concentration camp and gassing them and burning their remains can Key West discourage the influx of out of town vagrants, such as I was when I arrived in Key West in late 2000 without any money and lived on its streets and slept in doorways and on park benches and on fishing piers and anywhere else I could find to lay down my head at night. In honor of that experience and learning I was not part of Key West’s alleged ONE  HUMAN FAMILY, I have a tattoo on my right shoulder –  VAGRANT.

All things considered, commissioners would be wise to protect taxpayers from ballooning cost and expansive open ended programs while the mayor should make sure everyone understands the need for something beyond what we have now and work for a solution that the public understands and can support.

With all due respect, there is no solution, absent the facetious Nazi remedy. Not only is there no solution, I imagine Key West’s homeless count might increase due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and due to further economic troubles in America. There simply is no getting around Key West indeed is a homeless destination point, about which nothing can be done. There also is no getting around Key West does not have the affordable housing, nor the land for affordable housing, nor the financial ability to build affordable housing for homeless people who might graduate from a “transformational” homeless shelter. The only legal and somewhat humane way Key West can try reduce its homeless population is to steadily send them to the mainland, via Greyhound. However, such deportation would have to be voluntary, as it is illegal to force homeless people to get on a bus and leave. Of course, other cities already are giving their homeless bus tickets to fairer climes, including Key West, and that will continue, and will increase if Key West starts sending its homeless to those cities. The irony of ironies is, Key West is the only city in America, which has adopted ONE HUMAN FAMILY as its official creed. Yet, I know people in Key West, for whom ONE HUMAN FAMILY is very important, who do not view immigrant vagrants as part of Key West’s ONE HUMAN FAMILY. All other immigrants, and their money, these people I know welcome with open arms. I have met other people in Key West, who were so prejudiced and spoke so meanly of homeless people, that I started calling those people Nazis to their faces. Sometimes I did that in public meetings.

I rather imagine in God’s eyes we all are vagrants.

Krishnamurti

I published this below a few days ago, after it was sent to me by one of my readers, who owns a home in the golf course community. While it is rational and civil, it also is a threat to sue letter, if the city attempts to build a new homeless shelter next to the golf course.

Golf club homeowners: New shelter won’t reduce homeless

The Key West Golf Club HOA has passed a resolution to oppose the placing of a homeless shelter at the Easter Seals location.

The planning for this project has not been conducted in a proper and transparent way. No safety analysis, transportation study, construction budget, and thought out plan for safety of children has been considered. We feel that a 24 hour shelter will increase the homeless population.

We are experiencing homeless squatting under our porches and loitering in the community. We cannot enjoy walking on College Road. The homeless have become much younger and aggressive. Criminal behavior on College Road is at an unacceptable level. Gerald Adams students deserve a school in an area free from chemically addicted individuals and registered sex offenders.

The homeless shelter will force Mosquito Control from its current location. Relocation will cost $2.5 million. Eventually the taxpayers will burden that cost.

The proposed facility conflicts with the FKSPCA’s ability to build its new shelter. The animal shelter board stated they require additional space next to their building to construct a proper facility.

Where Marbut’s shelters exist, there has been a 47 percent increase in calls to the local police that require a response.

Currently, KOTS does nothing to reduce the number of homeless that go downtown everyday.

The budget proposed by Marbut is without merit. The faith-based charities have not agreed to provide meals at the shelter and the Sheriff’s Office was never approached to secure $400,000 in security. The only guaranteed funding comes from the $450,000 in taxes from the city of Key West. It appears the taxpayers will be burdened for a large portion of uncommitted funding.

Commissioners Billy Wardlow and Tony Yaniz both feel that the Easter Seals location is a suitable spot for an assisted living facility because of its proximity to the hospital, rehabilitation center, nursing home and public transportation.

This inadequately planned, ill-conceived proposal will be a continuing problem for the city, its residents and the Sheriff’s Office if it is carried out. This proposal will not help reduce the homeless issue we have and will be a great financial burden to all of us.

The Board of Directors

Key West Golf Club Homeowners Association

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Furthermore, this vagrant sayeth naught (today).

Sloan Bashinsky

keysmyhome@hotmail.com

About Sloan

That's what this website is about, also goodmorningkeywest.com and goodmorningbirmingham.com. If you can't get a publisher to take on your wacky musing, you do it yourself.
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