FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Concerned about the city’s image and its impact on downtown businesses, the Ft. Lauderdale commission is discussed the growing population of homeless people at Stranahan Park during their meeting Tuesday evening.
Mayor Jack Seiler told CBS4′s Maggie Newland that he feels the homeless population is out of control in the downtown area. On any given afternoon when the weather is nice, it’s not uncommon to find more than 100 homeless men and women lounging or asleep in park, located at Andrews Avenue and Broward Boulevard, surrounded by boxes or bags containing their possessions. The paper reports on days when shelters or church groups hands out free food, the litter left behind can be extensive.
“We’ve got to make sure our parks are not overwhelmed and our businesses are not overwhelmed and people who want to enjoy our amenities and attractions are not overwhelmed by the homeless situation,” said Seiler.
Seiler said that he expects that the commission will create an ordinance in the next few months that would discourage the homeless from camping out in the park and make panhandling illegal in the downtown area. A similar measure is already in place for the beach area.
“They blame everything on the homeless people,” said Keith Facyson, who is homeless. “It’s not the homeless people. Its the economy people losing their jobs. There’s not enough jobs. “
Ft. Lauderdale City Attorney Harry Stewart said the ordinance will have to be about balance because “homelessness is not a crime and panhandling is a form of free speech.” Stewart said any ordinance passed would have to be based on “an overriding governmental interest.” For example, the one enforced in the beach area is based on the importance of the beach to the city’s economic well-being. It has withstood a number of legal challenges.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.