MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the first time in a long time, the homeless encampment in Fort Lauderdale next to the downtown county library is gone.
After months of effort by a group of government agencies, non-profit groups, and the private sector, city and county leaders say the final tents came down Thursday and the final residents were moved into temporary housing.
The hope is that the encampment is closed for good and the people who called it home will now have better-living situations.
“There’s really good people out here who need the services, that really need the help,” said Andrew Bryant, who described himself as a long-time resident of the camp.
Bryant says he’s seen efforts to crack down on the homeless problem before — like giving citations for outdoor feedings and moving people out after rats were found in the camp. The rats remain but Bryant hopes this time the outcome for the residents is different and he said it appeared to be a new, compassionate effort by leaders to deal with the problem.
“They took names, they came out looking for who the people were, got everybody to pack their stuff up nice and put it into storage so they could get where they need to go with the housing,” Bryant explained.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said the partners in the effort focused on housing first, pooling money to pay for hotels and apartments for the more than 70 permanent residents of the camp.
“We’ve scheduled a year’s worth of expenses and we’ll revisit this within the next 10-12 months,” he said.
Trantalis said both the city of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County plan to make this funding part of their annual budget and added that they will also ask the private sector to contribute to the effort. He said they are also focused on supporting the residents of the camp with social services and employment services to try and get them a solid foundation. Trantalis has seen previous efforts at tackling this problem fail and he’s hopeful this time the camp won’t return.
“We’re gonna do everything we can to prevent that from happening,” he said.
Trantalis said there’s another component to this effort that will begin in early January — a new community court to help people cited for panhandling or other violations because of their homelessness.
He said the court will attempt to get the personal services and housing rather than cycling them into the criminal justice system.
There are plans for the site next to the library — renovations to the library’s exterior and a new public plaza. Those plans were on hold while people lived on site. Andrew Bryant is optimistic about this new plan by community leaders.
“I believe they out here trying to help,” he said.