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Excerpt from the Key West Citizen today:
Candidates downplay homeless
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
The city will settle a lawsuit brought by a Stock Island marina next week, Mayor Craig Cates said at an election forum Thursday night.
But with the recent political blowback against a new, 24-hour center replacing the overnight bunkhouse, Key West may find itself going backward in its homeless solutions, Cates added.
The suit’s settlement hinges on the city making strides to move its homeless shelter from the Sheriff Office’s property on College Road to another spot.
“We could end up with no locations,” Cates said at Hometown PAC’s candidates forum held at Tropic Cinema, 416 Eaton St. “If the sheriff forces us to close that down, then we would have the homeless living on the streets, the boulevard, just like they did years ago.”
With the days ticking down to the Oct. 1 city election, the candidates challenging the mayor and fellow incumbent City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley showed disdain Thursday for the city going forth with a 24-hour homeless shelter.
Cates this week took a political pummeling at the commission’s meeting, led by Commissioners Billy Wardlow and Tony Yaniz, who downplayed the need to shelter men and women who come in droves to Key West with plans to live off the island’s goodwill.
Nearly all of Key West’s homeless come from out of the county, a paid consultant’s report showed.
“I would say the priority should go to Mosquito Control,” said Margaret Romero, a constant city government critic who for a second time is running against Cates.
“If we don’t do something with Mosquito Control staying there, that will be a tax burden of $2 to $5 million for them to relocate.”
Romero had been asked by US-1 Radio’s News Editor Bill Becker to prioritize the agencies seeking land on College Road next to the former Easter Seals buildings.
After the Mosquito Control District, which has its headquarters next-door to where the mayor would like to build the 24-7 homeless shelter, Romero would next satisfy the Florida Keys SPCA, which has been waiting to expand and rebuild its building, which floods during a good rain.
Homeless services come in last, Romero said.
“It does not need to be a 24/7 shelter for the chronically homeless or the vagrants,” she said.
I was there last night, sat right behind City Commissioner Tony Yaniz and Key West the Newspaper Co-Publisher Naja Girard. After the forum, I figured I would write today about the channel-widening half of the event. But waiting on me in my email box when I got home was this below from Glenn, who owns a home in the golf course community on Stock Island. He has written to me before about this topic, and I have published it. My dream maker last night was all for Key West’s new homeless shelter being todays’ topic.
I guess you CAN fight city hall! LOL
From: Sterling Christian <email@example.com>
To: Sterling Christian <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thu, Sep 19, 2013 2:45 pm
Subject: Letter to City Commissioners
The KWGC HOA Board of Directors asked me to let you know that the below letter was sent to City Commissioners before their Commission meeting on Tuesday.
Sterling J. Christian, CPM®
The Community Association Company
201 Front Street, Suite 103
Key West, FL 33040
Dear Board of City Commissioners,
After receiving overwhelming feedback from our residents, we are writing to inform you that the Key West Golf Club Home Owners Association (KWGC HOA) Board has passed a resolution to oppose the placement of a homeless facility at the Easter Seals location on College Road.
For the last two years, the residents of our Community have followed the City’s proposed move of KOTS from the Sheriff’s Office property to the Easter Seals property on College Road. ?We have met with many of the individuals involved including Mayor Cates, Billy Wardlow, Bob Vitas, Dr. Marbut and Sheriff Ramsay. We have also gathered information from others following this situation such as Fr. Braddock, Margaret Romero, Bart Smith, members of the Mosquito Control Board and FKSPCA board members and management.
KWGC homeowners have concluded that planning for this proposed project has not been conducted in a proper, formal, and transparent way. It appears no safety analysis, no transportation study, no construction budget, no proper operating budget and no well thought out plan for safety of children and residents has been considered. From day one, the goal was to build a 24 hour shelter at Easter Seals. The Planning Board recommendation called for a full public process before approving the placement of a homeless facility on the Easter Seals-Mosquito Control property. No public discussion of the plan (other than before the City Commission) has been held.
For many years, the 390 taxpayers of our community have been displeased with the level of security and protection provided by the City of Key West. We have experienced incidents of homeless squatting under and on porches of vacated homes, using our public bathrooms and facilities and loitering on our private streets and property. Many residents of our community cannot enjoy College Road as a biking, jogging and walking path anymore. The homeless population has become younger and much more aggressive. Reported incidents of criminal behavior on College Road are at an unacceptable level and our residents are afraid to use the streets. Some have found themselves in potentially unsafe situations when confronting homeless persons.
College Road will become a far more dangerous place if the proposed shelter is constructed at the Easter Seals location. The shelter has no place on a street where elementary school children coexist. Gerald Adams students deserve a school in an area free from the risk of chemically addicted individuals and registered sex offenders.
With the addition of the bus transfer station, College Road will have even more vehicular traffic. The homeless loiter and walk College Road in a state of inebriation, adding to the risk of vehicular-pedestrian accidents.
The creation of the 24 hour shelter will force Mosquito Control from their current location. Many of the long- time residents of Key West remember how unpleasant it could be outside before Mosquito Control moved to College Road and could provide the excellent service we have come to expect. ?The cost of moving the Mosquito Control facility has been estimated at up to $2.5 million for facilities plus moving costs.
The Botanical Garden is a destination for tourists, families and schoolchildren and has been designated as a “trailhead” for the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. The trailhead will include facilities for parking, boating and walking trails. Safety for this family friendly tourist destination is critical.
Dr. Marbut’s proposed facility directly conflicts with the FKSPCA’s ability to build their new shelter. ?Representatives from the Animal Shelter’s board stated they require additional space next to their building to build a proper facility. The proposed homeless shelter will prevent them from doing so. The cost of a new lease and moving to a new location will be substantial.
The Key West Golf Club HOA strongly agrees with many others that a 24 hour shelter on College Road will only encourage more homeless individuals to come to Key West. ?We have researched the impact Marbut’s shelters have had in the communities of San Antonio and St. Petersburg. In both areas, the local police forces have experienced a 40 to 47% increase in calls and the need to respond to the communities where these shelters exist. The homeless population may have decreased in these downtown areas, but it has increased in the neighboring towns such as Sarasota and in other areas. We already know a homeless facility on College Road does not reduce the number of homeless in “Key West proper” as Mayor Cates characterizes the main island as consisting of Old Town and New Town. Locating the facility on Rockland Key is much more likely to limit the number of homeless congregating downtown.
We have also found that sources of funding proposed by Dr. Marbut for the operating budget have not been agreed to by the sources. First, the budget is heavily contingent on private donations of food with a value of $400,000. In fact, faith based charities have not committed to provide the meals needed at the shelter. Second, the Sheriff’s Office has not committed to the $400,000 in security services Marbut suggested. His report was issued without any coordination on this commitment with the Sheriff’s Office. The only assured funding comes from the $450,000 in funds the City has been providing to SHAL to run KOTS and the Mobile Van. It appears that the taxpayers will likely bear the burden of a large portion of the uncommitted funding.
In a City Commission meeting, Commissioner Wardlow recommended the Easter Seals location as a suitable spot for an assisted living facility and Commissioner Yaniz now agrees. Since the Truman Waterfront was ruled out as a possibility, the Easter Seals property with its proximity to hospital, rehabilitation center, nursing home and public transportation is the logical location for an assisted living facility.
We urge you to consider the issues we have raised. The current residents on College Road, grade school, hospital, convalescent care facility, nursing home, botanical garden, college and residences, need to be considered in the future utilization of this property. A homeless facility is not an acceptable neighbor for these organizations. Funding for the operation of the facility and for modification of the Easter Seals and the Mosquito Control buildings has not been identified. This location is highly desirable for an assisted living facility.
This inadequately planned, ill-conceived proposal will be a continuing problem for the City, its residents and the Sheriff’s Office if it is carried out. Please do not make the mistake of approving this plan. Saddling the City with this facility will be regretted by all organizations on College Road and the taxpayers of this City. This proposed shelter will be an ongoing problem for years to come.
The ultimate decision on the placement of a homeless facility of any type, how it is implemented, the operating costs, its effectiveness in reducing homeless population and the impact upon the surrounding community is of the utmost importance. A decision based upon how quickly and cheaply it can be accomplished, is a reckless strategy that will have a negative impact upon the future of our City. We implore you to listen to the input of the citizens of this City, and support what is the best for our future.
The Board of Directors of the Key West Golf Club Homeowners Association
Dave Hubbert – President
Robin Mitchell – Vice President
Steve Black – Treasurer
Mark Gambuzza – Secretary
Joe Marubbio – Director
Me to Glenn:
Well, if you have the money and can litigate, which is what this letter really threatens, you can fight City Hall. I expected something like this from the golf course community. I wager they will litigate, if the city moves ahead. However, after the recent city commission meeting, it don’t look likely for a new homeless shelter at this opposed location.
I told City Commissioner Teri Johnston tonight, before the candidate and referendum forum at Tropic Cinema got started, that there is city land near the airport where such a shelter could be built. She agreed. I told her Mayor Jimmy Weekley, and City Manager Julio Avael and Assistant City Manager John Jones had nearly gotten lynched for trying to put KOTS out there. Nearly got lynched in the church on the corner of Flagler and the road that runs through a neighborhood back toward the airport. I told Teri the city commission would need to just do it, and let that neighborhood holler.
Teri asked me some pretty good questions. How many homeless did I think would actually use a 24-hour shelter? I said maybe 70 percent, but not all day and night. Most would wander off campus. Some would not complete the program. Others would relapse later. 95 relapse rate for addicts, according to AA and NA old-timers. That statistic jolted Teri. No affordable housing in KW for graduates from such a shelter. If KW builds the shelter, KW will be stuck with it, like what happened after KW built KOTS.
I told Teri to talk with old-timers in AA and NA. And, to study how Miami created a homeless welfare state, and still they are not happy, and the cost was/is horrific and they are trying to get the Pottinger case set aside, so they can force homeless people to leave Miami.
Teri asked if FKOC would run the new shelter for the city? I said Steve Braddock told me FKOC was not interested. It’s not what they do. They don’t intake addicts. They use urine tests to screen applicants, and they give random urine tests to residents, and boot residents out, who flunk a urine test. They require applicants to dry out first. They are not set up to dry out addicts, and they don’t want the hassle, or to be sued again for something the city did.
I said, Key West is a homeless destination, even if current homeless leave, new homeless will come to Key West. If Key West goes active with a Greyhound bus export program, other cities will retaliate in kind. There is no happy outcome, but if they have to try it, the best place in the city is in the sticks by the airport.
I said I could advise them how to set it up the best possible way, I could tell them what won’t work, but they cannot overcome the lack of affordable housing and KW being a homeless destination, nor can they overcome the relapse rate. I told Terri the new homeless can be helped, the city should put 90 percent of its efforts and assets there.
Teri said she was going to call me, set up a get together, she wanted to talk with me some more.
There’s nothing in it for me, whichever way it goes. But I hate to see the city jump into it just because many people want something done. Might be in 10 years, they will look back and wonder what they were griping about? Because there now are a lot more homeless, and/or because they see that the new shelter they wanted did not turn out to be a magic wand by any stretch of the imagination. Nor did KOTS turn out that way, but back in 2004, the folks in City Hall who wanted it believed it was the answer.
I also told Teri last night, that the homeless who have been homeless a while are used to it, institutionalized, and most of them suffer from some sort of post traumatic shock, and many of them are mentally ill, as well as addicts, and while they might show progress for a while in a structured environment, while they might even graduate from a full-service homeless shelter, eventually many of them will relapse.
It kept coming to me during the night between dreams, that I know how to work psycho-spiritually with people, regardless of their station in life. I used to do it a lot. I did it one on one. I ran groups. My approach was different from what mainstream does. Results varied. People who got the most help went into deep emotional experiences, repeatedly. The angels took them under their wings, too, which really ramped it up. It was, well, like I said, different from the mainstream approach. And, as I also said, results were mixed, because the going was very emotional and major changes in points of view, beliefs, and behavior were required.
I don’t know if that’s in the wind for me, but it kept coming to me last night that I used to do a lot of that work, so I mention it here. I don’t feel physically or otherwise up to trying to run such a facility myself, and my experience in the past leaves me thinking anyone who did end up running it, and any mental health workers or addiction counselors involved, would have strong resistance to my input.
Maybe that’s enough said, for now. Maybe too much said.
You might find the lead article in Key West the Newspaper today interesting –
BY ARNAUD AND NAJA GIRARD
As the October 1st referendum nears, Key West The Newspaper [The Blue Paper] takes a look at some questionable practices used in the referendum campaign.
Employees of local businesses complain of being bullied into mandatory pro-study meetings. Others received intimidating letters or were surprised to find their name added to the list of pro-study supporters.
“It was my day off. I didn’t appreciate having to show up at 9:00 a.m. to be pounded about dredging the channel,” says [A], an employee of Half Shell Raw Bar Restaurant. [To protect the employees we will not name them in this report.] [...full article]