WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - For 35 years, Milo Vannucci has called the neighborhood along North Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach his home. Now, though, he is blaming a tough economy for some recent, and drastic, changes in the area.
"We've had a little change in the last year or two because of the crash," said Vannucci. "It's made it more difficult for people," he said.
Around Vannucci's neighborhood, there are piles of trash, and also dozens of homeless people. Some of those people have been camping out on vacant properties there for months.
"Hungry all the time," said Milton Jones of his current situation. Jones became homeless a few weeks ago after he lost his job and he and his girlfriend split up. He said he and others who have taken shelter along Ponce De Leon Avenue have no where else to go.
The city of West Palm Beach said it cannot do the job on its own. Authorities said private property owners must crack down on illegal trash dumping. They must also bar trespassers from entering, and staying on, the vacant lots, said Elliot Cohen, spokesperson for the city.
"It's something that we are paying a heightened amount of attention to," said Cohen. "That's why we have boosted police presence out here and that's why the city has paid on it's own dime to have private security out here, just to do what we can," he said. "It's a tough one."
So the trash remains, though Vannucci believes the city could easily pick some of it up while during regular garbage collection.
"It has collected out there and it's bad in some places. I think the city should just collect it and forget about it," he said. "I don't know what they are waiting for."
Vannucci wonders when the clean-up will come. He also wonders about what will happen to the homeless people in his neighborhood if they are suddenly forced to leave.
"I'm very concerned about what happens to those people if they get rid of that house," he said.
Calls to the owner of the vacant property, that some neighbors feel may be at the heart of the issue, were not immediately returned. The city, meanwhile, said it will send a code enforcement officer to the property.
Citations for the property owner could soon follow.
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