a Key West homeless survey that would make Jesus proud

There is an equally heart-warming  from the free speech section of the Florida Keys blackboard jungle  post today at www.goodmorningfloridakeys.com.


homeless bust

On the recent  Homeless No More: Duval Street miracle, Key West  post, Erika Biddle, mother of last fall’s extraordinary Hidden In Plain View homeless art, poetry and music exposition in Key West, wrote yesterday:

“A beautiful story – thank you for sharing. I met Larry and his sidekick “Indian Larry” during research for “hidden in plain view”. I am thrilled to know he took this chance to start a new life….XOE”

I replied:

I hope he sticks with his new life.

There’s a big article in The Citizen today re the new homeless count in the near future.

www.keysnews.com. I might pull some from it in tomorrow’s post, and might not. Life too batshit crazy to do any serious predicting.

Erika replied:

Are you participating by volunteering with canvassing in your area?

I replied:

Not that I know of. Maybe I have my head in a bat cave, but there are lots of people who can canvass, but I don’t know anyone who can do what I do re homelessness. That, and physically, I would not last more than an hour or two in the field, before I’d have to sit down, or lay down, and rest.

Steve Braddock and I think there are more homeless people in the Keys that estimated, or even counted. Maybe as many as 1,000.

Have been pondering, again, Mayor Cates’ drive to remove all homeless people from Key West, relocate them to Stock Island.

When Craig ran the first time in 2009, against Morgan McPherson, Mike Mongo and me, I don’t remember him having an agenda for homeless people. I don’t recall him coming out with proposals for homeless people at candidate forums, or anywhere else. I only remember one forum where homeless people were even mentioned, at that was the Girls Night Out forum, and they asked me about homeless women. I asked them back, imagine being a woman and not having a place to bathe daily, or sleep safely at night.

At his victory party at Camille’s, Craig and his campaign manager thanked me for Craig winning without a run-off. I had said at candidate forums, and in my posts that if people didn’t vote for me, they should vote for Craig. Definitely, they should not vote for Morgan or Mike.

After thanking me for getting him elected without a run-off, Craig asked me if I would be on his “Mayor’s Homeless Advisory Committee”? He said he wanted me on that Committee because I was so knowledgeable about homelessness. I said, sure.

Not long after that, I read in The Citizen that Craig’s daughter had run over and killed a homeless man near Kennedy Drive in Key West. Not her fault. I called Craig and offered to visit with his daughter. Given my background with homeless people, perhaps I could help her work through some of her trauma. Craig thanked me, but did not accept my offer.

I never heard again from Craig about his Mayor’s Homeless Committee, although I later heard he had started it. Later, I would hear Craig say Steve Braddock had not responded to his, Craig’s overtures, for Steve to be on the Mayor’s Homeless Committee. Steve then sent me emails from him to Craig indicating just the opposite had happened. Craig had ignored Steve’s overtures.

When I read in The Citizen that Craig was going to conduct a Mayor’s Homeless Tour, I called him and said I would like to tag along. He tried to talk me out of it, said he didn’t want any trouble. I said I would be there, they needed someone there who knew homelessness and homeless people, and he, his police officers and Wendy Cole and a journalist from The Citizen did not meet that criteria. If I had not been along, it would have been a drive-by/walk-by tour. I stopped that by introducing Craig to several homeless people, one of whom was a Key West Conch.

When Craig was running the second time, 2011, he told me that would be his last term. Then, last year, he told me he had to keep running until the new City Hall is finished at Glynn Archer School, which was the centerpiece of his 2007 campaign. From all I have seen and heard, putting the new City Hall into Glynn Archer School is the only thing Craig has achieved, so far, other than to make Key West homeless people’s lives more difficult if they do not sleep nights at KOTS [Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter], or cannot sleep nights there because it is full.

There has been zero movement at Truman Waterfront. North Roosevelt Boulevard is a Nightmare on Elm Street rerun. Bahama Village is still an unwanted, unhappy stepchild of Key West. Duval Street is still a low rider/hot rod/Harley Davidson testosterone bugle strip. Clearly, Craig wants the channel widened so that much bigger cruise ships can come into Key West and litter Duval Street even more with human sardine low-spending tourists than the little monster cruise ships already litter it.

It remains to be seen what Glynn Archer will really cost the city taxpayers. I don’t see Craig or anyone else involved pledging personal assets that the new City Hall won’t run over estimated cost. I renovated two older homes in Birmingham, one to live in, one for a law office. Both cost a good bit more than had been estimated. Maybe Craig will get a new great expectations homeless shelter built at the Easter Seals property on Stock Island.

If it were my call, I would try to persuade new Sheriff Rick Ramsay to let me move KOTS over under his big, overbuilt jail. I would not use quonset huts. I would let homeless people pitch tents or sleep on the ground, out of the rain. I would not provide air conditioning. I would provide showers, porto-lets and lockers, where they could store their belongings during the day time. There is plenty of room there for that, and it’s under the guarded jail and away from the marina and condo development currently complaining about KOTS.

If, when, the new shelter is built at the Easter Seal Building, I would only allow in it homeless people who can provide clean urine, and who are not presenting MRSA skin infections. Homeless people without clean urine or presenting MRSA skin infections could use KOTS. Homeless people presenting MRSA skin infections would not be allowed on the streets or in parks, but would be quarantined and fed at KOTS, the jail’s kitchen could be used, until they no longer presented MRSA skin infections.

In all events, I would continue the program of providing homeless people with help getting IDs, driver’s licenses, food stamps, benefits to which they are entitled, medical treatment, psychological and career counseling, computer and Internet instruction/access. I would do all I could to encourage the soup kitchen and clothing pantries to stay in business. I would do what I could to see to it that every homeless person has a usuable bicycle and a decent pair of shoes.

I would stop arresting homeless people for open container and sleeping outside at night. Instead, I would transport them directly to KOTS under the county jail, if they were caught in either condition. It is bizarre that the county taxpayers have to pay for Key West’s homeless people being housed in the county jail for petty misdemeanors just because Mayor Cates and his citizens don’t want homeless people in Key West. I cannot believe the previous sheriffs went along with that, nor the County Commission, which funds the Sheriff Department’s budget out of county tax revenues.

I dunno, Erika. Maybe I just ain’t in a wonderful mood today. Might not be in a wonderful mood tomorrow, either. Hope you are still enjoying your South American vacation. Or are you back in Key West now?

Erika replied:

I am back in KW and attended the volunteer meeting for the homeless census. I like many of your suggestions outlined above. On another note I need a small a/c storage space for “hidden in plain view” exhibit ASAP perhaps you can help network?”


Here’s The Citizen article.

Count set for Jan. 29

Volunteers sought for homeless census

BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff


From midnight to midnight on Jan. 29, volunteers will canvass the Florida Keys through shelters, streets and the islands’ surrounding waters in an effort to pinpoint the number of homeless men and women who live outdoors or in substandard housing.

“We want to use these numbers to support the numbers we already have and make sure we are putting our dollars to best use,” said Stephanie Kaple, a coordinator of the census who runs the women’s program at Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.

“We’re looking to find people who are working and homeless, families struggling,” said Kaple, who on Friday led about 30 people in Key West through a 45-minute training session. “We’re trying to get a better view of what actually is here in Monroe County.”

Volunteers are needed Keyswide to go into the streets and shelters or help with the data entry and other tasks. The census training will continue Friday in Marathon and Tavernier, and another session will be held in Key West at 3 p.m. Jan. 23, at 2221 Patterson Ave. Call 305-294-0304 for information.

Monroe County hasn’t done this type of extensive “point-in-time” since 2011, when the estimate was more than 500 individuals living without adequate shelter, including 246 in Key West, and an additional 387 adults and children living in shelters.

On Jan. 29, the Monroe County Homeless Services Continuum of Care — created recently by a band of nonprofits — has pledged to start what it promises will be an annual on-the-ground survey.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) doesn’t require a head count each year, but the new agency thinks it’s better for service providers and the homeless to do it annually.

Key West just took the first steps toward building a 24-hour shelter, planned for the former Easter Seals property on Stock Island, although costs and details are pending.

“The citizens have the right for those decisions to be based on solid data and demographics, not speculation,” said the Rev. Steve Braddock, president and CEO of Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and chairman of the continuum of care. “You don’t respond to a perceived need without understanding what the need is.”

In January 2012, then-lead agency for homeless grants Southernmost Homeless Assistance League planned for an on-the-ground census, but canceled it at the last minute, instead counting only those staying at shelters at that time.

That shelter count was between 350 to 400 people Keyswide.

When it comes to competing with other agencies for grant money, that decision will cost Monroe County an automatic 8 points on the federal point system used to rate applications, said Braddock.

“We’re losing points with HUD because SHAL (Monroe County) didn’t do an unsheltered count in 2012,” said Braddock.

“It was optional every other year. If you have the capacity to do it, you should do it. We didn’t do it last year, so we’re being penalized.”

In July, then-SHAL Executive Director Wendy Coles reported to the City Commission that on Jan. 24, there were 246 people in Key West without adequate housing, citing a “positive trend,” and crediting the city, the police and agencies such as SHAL for the results.

Coles resigned last year and the nonprofit recently hired Patrice Sanders to head the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter, becoming the third KOTS director in less than six months.

The city of Key West reserves about $400,000 a year for the management of the overnight shelter, built on county land off College Road on Stock Island. About 140 people sleep there nightly and leave in the morning.

The national homeless rate remained stable between January 2012 and January 2011, according to HUD, but has fallen by almost 6 percent since 2007.

On a single night in January 2012, 633,782 people were homeless in the United States. While 62 percent were individuals, 38 percent were families.

Florida is one of five states that account for nearly half of the nation’s homeless population, at nearly 9 percent. California and New York are ahead of the Sunshine State, while Texas and Georgia round out the top five.

The Jan. 29 census will begin at KOTS, owned by the city and managed by SHAL, and then teams will fan out into public parks, onto beaches and even out to mangroves by boat.

People aren’t merely counted, but also asked a few personal questions. Race and an age range are both noted, but each person also will be asked what led him or her to the streets.

An inflated number of homeless wouldn’t help nonprofits, Kaple said when asked if more people equalled more grant money.

The homeless count has helped deliver some $2.5 million in state and federal grants to the Keys each year for homeless outreach and emergency services., according to SHAL.

“It does us no good to underestimate or overstate the problem,” Kaple said. “Our goal is to understand who we have. If we do have a bigger number, then why?”

The homeless people interviewed will receive a small “gift” bag of soap, a toothbrush, pens, Band-Aids and maybe a granola bar, Kaple said, as thanks for answering some personal questions and helping with the county’s census.

If someone refuses to talk, a volunteer is allowed to make a “visual survey,” based on a person’s clothes and appearance.

After all, each key is like a small town, said Kaple, and some volunteers already know a homeless man or woman. The census is meant to compile information, she added, not to rat out people living on private land or on a public street.

“No one’s going to get arrested or forced out,” Kaple said. “We just need to know who they are.”


If KWPD finds out where homeless people are camping in Key West, they will be forced out and arrested.

If anyone has a small airconditioned space Erika can use to store the Hidden In Plain View art, please let me know. Thanks.

Sloan Bashinsky



About Sloan

Darn, that would take a while. Try the autobiographical pages in the header. Ditto for header menu pages at www.goodmorningbirmingham.com. Hatched and raised there, eventually I ran away from home. Here's a short list: Born 1942; male; spoken for; accused of all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable things, perhaps some true. Live on Key West of Weird asteroid. Publish something most days at goodmorningkeywest.com, been at that since July 2007. That's heaps of catch-up reading, probably not recommended.
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