[Hpn] Orange County, FL - Orange forces landowners to remove vagrant camps - Orlando Sentinel - August 8, 2002

H. C. Covington H. C. Covington" <icanamerica@bellsouth.net
Sat, 10 Aug 2002 01:30:42 -0500

Dear Laurel:

Is the Law Center involved with this case?  Is there anything that can
be done to help 'those called homeless' who have permission to camp on
private land?


Orange forces landowners to remove vagrant camps

Under the law, police cannot roust the homeless from a
property for trespassing unless the property owner is present.
However, zoning laws allow fines against landowners who allow
people to squat on property not zoned residential.

By Melissa Harris - Orlando Sentinel - August 8, 2002

Illegal vagrant camps hidden among the scattered woods of east
Orange County are the latest targets in a local-government
crackdown on the homeless.

Faced with the threat of fines of at least $250 a day, at least a
half dozen landowners already have rousted the homeless from
their property, some by using bulldozers.

The move comes at the urging of the Orange County Sheriff's
Office, which prompted the county to issue 12 violation notices
against property owners who let the homeless live on their

"We get a lot of complaints from residents and business owners
about the homeless urinating or bathing in public," said sheriff's
Capt. Michael Miller, whose district includes east Orange.

"And the [homeless] population appears to be growing. So
we're trying to control the spread of the problem."

Miller contends the transients are responsible for high property
- crime rates in the area, such as theft and auto burglary.

To carry out the campaign, the sheriff's office and the county
are using county code-enforcement ordinances to do what deputies

Under the law, police cannot roust the homeless from a
property for trespassing unless the property owner is present.
However, zoning laws allow fines against landowners who allow
people to squat on property not zoned residential.

No one knows how many homeless people are affected by the
crackdown because the encampments are as transient as the people
who sleep there. At least one of the displaced men said he had
lived in the same encampment, off East Colonial Drive, for five

The county effort, which began when letters were sent out in
April, comes as Orlando also cracks down on its homeless

The Orlando City Council voted earlier this week to make it
illegal for the homeless to sleep or lie down on streets in the
downtown business district.

Advocates speak out

But the homeless and their advocates say bulldozers won't solve
the problem. The homeless will simply set up camp elsewhere.

"Our homeless will become more transient," said Sherry Ciccone, a
founder of the Homeless Outreach Partnership Effort, which offers
health care and social services to people living in the camps.
"They'll move to deeper places, places that are harder to reach."

There are more than 6,000 homeless people in Central Florida, and
roughly a third of them live in the clandestine camps, nearly
invisible inside the woods on vacant or overgrown property owned
by absentee landlords or people sympathetic to their plight.

Their tents and makeshift shacks are hidden just a few steps from
the world of office buildings, discount stores and gas stations,
and an easy walk to comfortable suburban homes.

Most of the people who live in these encampments are single men
ages 25 to 55. Some have lost their jobs.

Others have spent time in mental institutions, and many more are
alcoholics or drug addicts.

Some camps filthy, wet

Some of the camps, which rarely consist of more than a half-dozen
people, are home to wet, dirty tents and are littered with broken
beer bottles.

Others are more well-kept, such as one on an abandoned lot at
Colonial Drive and Forsyth Road that was once home to a dentist's
office. No drugs are allowed, said John Reese, the unofficial
leader of the camp's residents. Beer bottles are kept in a
garbage can, and beer cans are kept in Reese's shopping cart.

But because half of the property owners are complying with the
county's demands -- many calling deputy sheriffs to threaten the
homeless with trespassing charges -- Reese has had to move four
times in the past six months in east Orange County.

"They're cleaning us out," said Reese, 53. "We just keep moving
farther and farther down the street, but we're trying to stay
near labor halls so we can work."

He's referring to labor pools, operated out of industrial
buildings where the homeless show up to vie for odd jobs.

Potential workers arrive as early as 6 a.m. and wait in line
until an employer, such as a lawn-mowing service, picks them up.
The average pay is about $37.50 per day, regardless of the job.

Robert Spivey, manager of the county's code-enforcement division,
said his agency is trying to work with HOPE and the Coalition for
the Homeless to get those affected placed in a shelter.

Shelters too far from jobs

But the homeless say the shelters, mostly located downtown,
aren't close enough to labor pools and other resources scattered
along East Colonial Drive.

Six of the 12 property owners notified of violating the county
code have had homeless camps removed from their property. The
other six haven't and could face stiff fines for not complying.

Thomas Maloney, 51, used to live in one of those camps. But since
bulldozers razed the area earlier this summer, he stores his
belongings in a broken-down blue Dodge Caravan parked behind a
warehouse at 6655 E. Colonial Drive near Labor Ready, the labor
pool where he often finds work.

He spent his Wednesday afternoon sitting on a bucket once filled
with pickles and drinking a bottle of Magnum 32 malt liquor while
waiting for the property manager, Tom Pawlicki, to have his van

Sympathetic to the plight

Pawlicki, a Vietnam veteran, is sympathetic to the plight of the
homeless and says if it weren't for the code-enforcement
division's crackdown, he wouldn't make Maloney move.

"This is not the way to solve this problem," Pawlicki said. "Tom
works whenever he can and hasn't created a problem. They've got
it all wrong."

Maloney stores his belongings in the van to prevent them from
being stolen, but if the van isn't moved, Pawlicki's boss could
face numerous fines.

After receiving the violation notice, a property owner has about
one month to comply. If that doesn't happen, the owner faces a
hearing before the code-enforcement board, a seven-member
quasi-judicial panel whose members are appointed by the County

If the board finds a violation, the owner has another grace period,
but once that has passed, the owner will be fined $250 per day
until the homeless are removed.

Fines may increase

Spivey, the county code-enforcement manager, plans to go before
the County Commission soon to ask commissioners to raise the fine
to $1,000 per day -- enough of an incentive, he says, for absentee
property owners to pay attention.

"Right now, we're focused only on the east side," Spivey said,
"and we will gauge the expansion of the program based on our
level of success."

Melissa Harris can be reached at mharris@orlandosentinel.com
or 407-420-6269. Copyright  2002, Orlando Sentinel
source page:  http://makeashorterlink.com/?F21132A71

Homeless & Housing Daily News