[Hpn] Downtown prosperity, homelessness clash

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Fri, 22 Feb 2008 02:44:35 -0500


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Downtown prosperity, homelessness clash
  By Brittany Wallman | South Florida Sun-Sentinel=20
  February 22, 2008=20
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/sfl-0222homeless,0,1745622=
.story
=20
FORT LAUDERDALE - As homeless people were waking up on the stairwells =
and parks of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, some of downtown's most =
powerful business and community leaders were in a meeting fretting about =
how to get rid of them.

Downtown has blossomed in the past five years into a city center with =
more than a dozen new luxury condo towers, a robust retail and =
restaurant economy on Las Olas Boulevard, and a jampacked bar district =
on Southwest Second Street, but the urban core also attracts more =
homeless people than any other city in Broward County.

According to CEOs and others at Thursday's power broker meeting, the =
homeless are overrunning downtown like never before.

A Broward survey a year ago found 3,154 homeless people countywide, 701 =
of them living on the streets.

The meeting was billed as a look at "safety, security and quality of =
life in the downtown area," by the Urban Core Committee of the Broward =
Workshop, a forum of business leaders who try to exert influence to fix =
the county's problems or bring about change.

Some of the workshop members had already complained to City Hall about =
the indigents on downtown streets, leaving the rancid smell of urine, =
stealing food off plates at outdoor cafes, chasing away business and =
offending tourists.

But before they could say much Thursday morning, a man walked into the =
meeting dressed shabbily, with plaid pajama pants and a T-shirt over =
several layers of other clothing.

"When you see people dressed the way I'm dressed today, disheveled, =
dirty, maybe smelly," the man said, "=85 that doesn't make them =
derelicts, undesirables.

On our streets, on any given day in Fort Lauderdale, there are many =
people dressed like this that are lawyers, doctors. I've had policemen, =
and I have even had businessmen like you. They're in a state of crisis."

He then shed his street clothes to reveal dress slacks, a dress shirt =
and tie. He was Jaime Costas, one of three Fort Lauderdale police =
officers assigned solely to the city's homeless people.

Costas launched into a speech that crossed into sermon. Tears streamed =
down his face as he told the business crowd that "these people don't =
have a disease," and that they "need intelligent people like you and I =
that have all their issues organized, to help them."

Any one of you, he told the crowd of about 40, is only a crisis away =
from being homeless yourself.

"Homelessness is not a crime," he said. "The city of Fort Lauderdale =
does not arrest people simply for being homeless."

On an overhead screen, he showed a picture of an unidentified man in a =
baseball cap with a red plaster cast on his leg. The man was one of Fort =
Lauderdale's homeless. He has schizophrenia; his teeth have rotted away.

He told of another man, Nelson, who lived next to a dumpster off Cypress =
Creek Road. A paraplegic since age 15, Nelson smelled of feces and used =
a stick to eat whatever he could glean from the trash. Drinking had =
destroyed his life; he had lost his $60,000-a-year job and his wife.

A veteran named John walks Sunrise Boulevard. He has a huge inheritance =
and a pension, but his mental issues are larger. John grew up rich but =
fell apart mentally when his parents were killed while he was serving =
for the United States in the Vietnam war.

At that point, Costas was in tears again. He borrowed from the Bible, =
from the gospel of Matthew: "When you've helped feed the hungry, when =
you've given drink to the thirsty, when you've clothed the naked, when =
you've helped the homeless. ... When you've helped the least of these, =
you have done it unto me, thou good and faithful servant."

The meeting was then back in the hands of the business crowd.

"I think there's no one in this room who doesn't have compassion," said =
developer Pamela Adams, who chaired the meeting. "All of us serve on =
boards that help" people. But, she said, the people in that room want =
their substantial investments in downtown protected as well.

"I understand homelessness is not a disease, but ... when you're =
spending $100 for lunch you don't want [the homeless there]. I hate to =
be crass."

"In the last four months, we've almost been overrun by them," said Tom =
Vogel, managing partner of One River Plaza.

After the meeting, Steve Werthman, the county's Homeless Initiative =
Partnership administrator, said the downtown crowd could start the =
necessary political groundswell that's essential to push for the 1,200 =
additional shelter beds needed countywide.

The county spends $12 million a year helping the homeless. But, Werthman =
said, tough economic times bring tough choices, and, quite possibly, =
more people without a place to live.

Brittany Wallman can be reached at bwallman@sun-sentinel.com or =
954-356-4541.



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<DIV>
<H1>Downtown prosperity, homelessness clash</H1>
<DIV class=3Dclear></DIV>
<DL class=3Dbyline><SPAN class=3Dstory-byline>By Brittany Wallman=20
  </SPAN><SPAN>|</SPAN> <SPAN class=3Dstory-titleline>South Florida=20
  Sun-Sentinel</SPAN> <SPAN class=3Dstory-dateline>
  <DD>February 22, 2008</SPAN> </DD></DL>
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<H4><A=20
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meless,0,1745622.story</A></H4></DIV>
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<P id=3Dstory-body>FORT LAUDERDALE - As homeless people were waking up =
on the=20
stairwells and parks of <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX =3D RUNTIME =
/><RUNTIME:TOPIC=20
id=3DPLGEO100100403070000>Fort Lauderdale</RUNTIME:TOPIC> on Thursday, =
some of=20
downtown's most powerful business and community leaders were in a =
meeting=20
fretting about how to get rid of them.<BR><BR>Downtown has blossomed in =
the past=20
five years into a city center with more than a dozen new luxury condo =
towers, a=20
robust retail and restaurant economy on Las Olas Boulevard, and a =
jampacked bar=20
district on Southwest Second Street, but the urban core also attracts =
more=20
homeless people than any other city in Broward County.<BR><BR>According =
to CEOs=20
and others at Thursday's power broker meeting, the homeless are =
overrunning=20
downtown like never before.<BR><IFRAME marginWidth=3D0 marginHeight=3D0=20
src=3D"/common/includes/topix.html?pcode=3D6012&amp;url=3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fww=
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<P id=3Dstory-body2>A Broward survey a year ago found 3,154 homeless =
people=20
countywide, 701 of them living on the streets.<BR><BR>The meeting was =
billed as=20
a look at "safety, security and quality of life in the downtown area," =
by the=20
Urban Core Committee of the Broward Workshop, a forum of business =
leaders who=20
try to exert influence to fix the county's problems or bring about=20
change.<BR><BR>Some of the workshop members had already complained to =
City Hall=20
about the indigents on downtown streets, leaving the rancid smell of =
urine,=20
stealing food off plates at outdoor cafes, chasing away business and =
offending=20
tourists.<BR><BR>But before they could say much Thursday morning, a man =
walked=20
into the meeting dressed shabbily, with plaid pajama pants and a T-shirt =
over=20
several layers of other clothing.<BR><BR>"When you see people dressed =
the way=20
I'm dressed today, disheveled, dirty, maybe smelly," the man said, =
"&#133; that=20
doesn't make them derelicts, undesirables.<BR><BR>On our streets, on any =
given=20
day in Fort Lauderdale, there are many people dressed like this that are =

lawyers, doctors. I've had policemen, and I have even had businessmen =
like you.=20
They're in a state of crisis."<BR><BR>He then shed his street clothes to =
reveal=20
dress slacks, a dress shirt and tie. He was Jaime Costas, one of three =
Fort=20
Lauderdale police officers assigned solely to the city's homeless=20
people.<BR><BR>Costas launched into a speech that crossed into sermon. =
Tears=20
streamed down his face as he told the business crowd that "these people =
don't=20
have a disease," and that they "need intelligent people like you and I =
that have=20
all their issues organized, to help them."<BR><BR>Any one of you, he =
told the=20
crowd of about 40, is only a crisis away from being homeless=20
yourself.<BR><BR>"Homelessness is not a crime," he said. "The city of =
Fort=20
Lauderdale does not arrest people simply for being homeless."<BR><BR>On =
an=20
overhead screen, he showed a picture of an unidentified man in a =
baseball cap=20
with a red plaster cast on his leg. The man was one of Fort Lauderdale's =

homeless. He has schizophrenia; his teeth have rotted away.<BR><BR>He =
told of=20
another man, Nelson, who lived next to a dumpster off Cypress Creek =
Road. A=20
paraplegic since age 15, Nelson smelled of feces and used a stick to eat =

whatever he could glean from the trash. Drinking had destroyed his life; =
he had=20
lost his $60,000-a-year job and his wife.<BR><BR>A veteran named John =
walks=20
Sunrise Boulevard. He has a huge inheritance and a pension, but his =
mental=20
issues are larger. John grew up rich but fell apart mentally when his =
parents=20
were killed while he was serving for the United States in the Vietnam=20
war.<BR><BR>At that point, Costas was in tears again. He borrowed from =
the=20
Bible, from the gospel of Matthew: "When you've helped feed the hungry, =
when=20
you've given drink to the thirsty, when you've clothed the naked, when =
you've=20
helped the homeless. ... When you've helped the least of these, you have =
done it=20
unto me, thou good and faithful servant."<BR><BR>The meeting was then =
back in=20
the hands of the business crowd.<BR><BR>"I think there's no one in this =
room who=20
doesn't have compassion," said developer Pamela Adams, who chaired the =
meeting.=20
"All of us serve on boards that help" people. But, she said, the people =
in that=20
room want their substantial investments in downtown protected as =
well.<BR><BR>"I=20
understand homelessness is not a disease, but ... when you're spending =
$100 for=20
lunch you don't want [the homeless there]. I hate to be =
crass."<BR><BR>"In the=20
last four months, we've almost been overrun by them," said Tom Vogel, =
managing=20
partner of One River Plaza.<BR><BR>After the meeting, Steve Werthman, =
the=20
county's Homeless Initiative Partnership administrator, said the =
downtown crowd=20
could start the necessary political groundswell that's essential to push =
for the=20
1,200 additional shelter beds needed countywide.<BR><BR>The county =
spends $12=20
million a year helping the homeless. But, Werthman said, tough economic =
times=20
bring tough choices, and, quite possibly, more people without a place to =

live.<BR><BR>Brittany Wallman can be reached at =
bwallman@sun-sentinel.com or=20
954-356-4541.</P></DIV>
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