FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – If you started seeing more Fort Lauderdale Police officers patrolling the area around Stranahan Park this week, it’s no accident.

The city’s mayor, Jack Seiler, says it’s part of the city’s effort to clean up the park, which has become a haven for dozens of homeless men and women during the day. The park is on the busy corner of Broward Boulevard and Andrews Avenue and is adjacent to the county’s main library.

“Families don’t feel safe, people going to the library don’t feel safe, people wanting to use public resources don’t feel safe,” Seiler told CBS4’s Carey Codd. “It’s gone too far.”

The city believes the sight of the homeless is affecting tourism, nearby businesses and tarnishing the city’s image.

But the homeless say they have nowhere else to go.

“There’s people out here that need help,” said one homeless man who did not want to be identified. “There’s also people out here that don’t know how to get it. All (the city is) trying to do is take people to jail.”

The homeless say they congregate in the park because that is where outside groups come to feed the homeless or bring necessities to them. The homeless estimate there can be as many as 150 homeless people in the park during feeding times.

Keith Gooch is homeless. Gooch, who told CBS4 News that is a former Army veteran who served in Vietnam, believes the increased police pressure is uncalled for.

“There’s no real crimes being committed here in this park,” Gooch said. “If (the city has) a problem with it give us someplace that we can go.”

Seiler said the police are cracking down on crimes like public drunkenness, indecent exposure and urinating in public. Seiler also said he hopes the city commission passes a law banning panhandling and sleeping in public.

“It is not a crime to be homeless but at the same time if you are homeless and you are committing a crime, we will enforce the law and there will be an arrest or an appropriate penalty,” Seiler said.

Javier Moran — an employee at Verdi’s restaurant across the street from the park — said he was threatened at knife point by a homeless person. He also said he’s seen customers scared off by panhandlers.

“If you want to sit outside, you don’t want to be harassed by people looking for money,” Moran said.

The city says they have an extensive outreach program for the homeless — at the Homeless Assistance Center. Seiler added that if people obey the law — they can stay in the park during the day.

The city commission is expected to receive an update from staff at next week’s commission meeting on the progress of the city’s efforts.

Comments (8)
  1. Jimbo99 says:

    It’s the economy. No jobs, underemployment, solve those and you’ll resolve homelessness.

  2. Don says:

    I have a Solution to this problem, This will take care of two problem’s we have in south florida. (the homeless and the hungry) Feed the homeless to the hungry and both problem’s will be solved.

  3. Mark says:

    All homeless people have serious problems. Many homeless people have mental problems that can be treated with great success. On the other hand, many homeless people are mentally and/or physically handicapped beyond help and need to be institutionalized. There are also homeless people whom are not drug users or mentally ill, but just in a bad financial situation. Until such time that mental health is brought out of the closet and no longer thought of handled as a dirty little secret, not an ounce of humanity and dignity will exist in this society.

  4. Chucky... says:

    “But the homeless say they have nowhere else to go.”

    Well, that’s just too bad.

    And I do appreciate Don’s lyrical comment.

    I’ve lost both items on my bike while in the library, and then the entire bike itself. That really ticked me off, as well as cost me a substantial piece of cash.

    Have you ever taken a bus from the central bus facility across from the park?

    The same idiots from the park think it’s okay to ride around on the bus all day, while nursing a beer or a Jim Beam shorty..

    Then,all too often, they make trouble and/or just stink it up, the bus that is.

    Sorry, people, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

  5. MiseryFields says:

    Personally, I really wish the police would just start rounding up homeless people in the area. I walk down to the grocery store, which is only next door to my apartment, every day and every single time I walk out my door, there are homeless people sitting on the steps of the complex, even though there are no trespassing signs, they ask me for money and cigarettes, they refuse to move when I tell them that they are on private property and that they are trespassing. And keep in mind, this is before I even get out onto the streets. When I do get onto the streets, there are a minimum of five, yes, FIVE homeless people begging me for my things, money, cigarettes, whatever. When I tell them that, no, I don’t have anything to give them, they get angry and start threatening me.

    And this is just walking 500 feet away from my home.

    Two years ago, there were absolutely no homeless people in the area. NONE.

    Now, I can’t even walk out my door without carrying personal defense weapons.


    1. Don says:

      Have you tried the owner of your apartment building to do something about it or keep calling the police until they get them out of there. I’m in Ft Lauderdale and in a gated community and that’s why I don’t have them where I’m at. And then you need to carry a weapon to protect yourself, That’s Crazy

      1. MiseryFields says:

        Oh, yeah, the manager has come out on multiple occasions to tell the repeat offenders to get out, but they keep coming back. The police have been to the area up to seven or eight times on some days.

      2. Don says:

        Wow, That’s just Crazy. You can’t live a normal life because there alway’s hanging out. Next time you go to the store pick up some job app and hand them out to them. Maybe they can get a job. I know if it was me I would use pepper spray just to get them to move. But don’t have no witness around when you spray them. Good luck Don