Since the downtown homeless camp was dismantled three months ago, groups of homeless have pitched tents or begun congregating in other parts of the city, officials said.
A tent city outside the Broward Main Library was dismantled at the end of November, and about 85 people living there were moved into hotels, and then apartments. But the encampment, a social and feeding hub, attracted more people than those living in tents, and its disappearance dispersed scores of homeless people to neighborhoods that hadn’t seen them before.
In Fort Lauderdale, home base for many of the county’s 2,000-plus homeless, a camp popped up at an abandoned Orchard Supply Hardware store on North Federal Highway, and at a Chick-Fil-A, said City Commissioner Heather Moraitis, who represents the northern part of the city. Residents along the condo-lined Galt Ocean Mile also complain about homeless people there, she said.
Commissioner Robert McKinzie, who represents northwest Fort Lauderdale, said he’s noticed homeless people migrating there, too.
“Since the day of removing them from the park, we have seen pockets throughout the city, of encampments, in particular my district,” McKinzie said at a recent City Commission meeting. “It’s the same folks from downtown that I’m looking at.”
Rebecca McGuire, human services administrator for Broward County, said there’s been an increase in reports of camps or hangouts. The county sends it outreach team to each site, she said, to see who’s there, and direct eligible people to help. The county has been building a database of homeless people so it can help those sleeping on the streets or in cars or any other place not meant for human habitation.
“We’re checking them out two or three times a week,” McGuire said of the new homeless hangouts. “We’re seeing pockets of people, which is not unusual: For people experiencing homelessness, there’s safety in numbers.”
Under a new, more compassionate approach to homelessness, Fort Lauderdale and Broward County officials are making an effort not to arrest homeless people for crimes directly related to their homelessness — trespassing, or loitering, for example, she said. With financial help from nonprofits and businesses, the county is helping homeless people get housing.
A new community court each Wednesday in City Hall helps homeless people obtain IDs and connects them with services to address mental illness, substance abuse, job training and financial literacy. Meals are now coordinated so they’re indoors seven days a week, with a mobile shower for those who want to get clean, officials said.
Maguire said homeless people hanging out on the streets now are encouraged to hang out at two new day centers, at the Salvation Army on Broward Boulevard, or at Hope South Florida at 1100 N. Andrews Ave.