Reporting Ted Scouten
FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Just in time for the holidays, the City of Ft. Lauderdale has come up with a way to help the homeless who have relatives in other parts of the country who are willing to take care of them.
Tuesday, the Ft. Lauderdale city commission approved a $25,000 program which will buy them one-way bus tickets out of town. The program won’t cost taxpayers a dime. It’s being paid for by the Florida Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which is money confiscated from criminals.
Vice Mayor Bobby DuBose was the only commissioner to vote against the program, saying he believes that there are other ways the money could be used to help the homeless. He said he was also concerned that some homeless people may take advantage of the program and use it as a cheap vacation.
Under terms of the program, a participant would only be eligible to receive a free ticket once.
Vicki Nugent, who now calls Stranahan Park in downtown Ft. Lauderdale home, never dreamed that one day she would be living on the streets.
“I came here because my boyfriend was on the run and I left Johnstown, Pennsylvania and came here five years and four months ago and I been here ever since,” said Nugent. “I just got stuck. I can’t explain it.”
Nugent said she’d be eligible for the program because she has several family members willing to take care of her back home.
“I have three younger sisters, my grand children, my daughters and two of my sons,” said Nugent.
Sean Cononie, who runs a homeless shelter in Hollywood, said if Fort Lauderdale runs its program the same way Broward County does, and the homeless aren’t forced onto buses to leave, he’s all in favor.
“We need to not force the homeless into leaving town. That’s their God given right to be where ever they want to be. But if they want to go home and the city’s willing put them home, I think it’s a great opportunity for both parties,” said Cononie.
Nugent, who hopes to one day leave the streets behind, said she’s going to look into it.
So far, about 100 homeless people like Nugent have expressed interest in the program. The city hopes to have it up and running by early January.