NewsPalm Beach County


'No such thing as golden years:' Bill disrupts lives of homeless in Palm Beach County

Palm Beach County Mayor Maria Sachs says every county is 'grappling' with homelessness
Posted at 5:52 PM, Jun 24, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Following the enactment of House Bill 1365 in March, the lives of nearly 2,000 homeless Palm Beach County residents have been abruptly disrupted. These people, who have been seeking shelter in public spaces, are now having to scramble for alternate places to sleep.

The bill's provisions render public camping and public sleeping without certification of designated public property by the Department of Children and Family illegal, leaving them in a dire predicament.

Palm Beach County is one of the largest counties in all of Florida. One of the most significant issues for this county is its growing homeless population.

Nearly every city in the county is grappling with the urgent issue of residents sleeping outside. Or in tents.

In March, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill which forbids people from sleeping or camping in public places. He said it was "quality of life issue."

Homeless people at a park in Palm Beach County on March 4, 2024.


Florida set to ban homeless from sleeping on public property

Brendan Farrington
2:16 PM, Mar 06, 2024

The House Bill is set to take effect on Oct. 1, and that’s why Palm Beach County Mayor Maria Sachs wanted the mayors to come together to discuss the issue.

"Every municipality in the state is grappling with the same issue," said Sachs. "It's important that we come together as a county, all the mayors, and talk about how we can tackle homelessness."

Monday morning, county leaders gathered inside the Palm Beach County Convention Center to discuss the homeless issue. But media weren't allowed.

WPTV journalist Kendall Hyde asked why media weren't let in if it's a meeting on how to help the homeless.

"I wanted the mayors to speak candidly with each other," Sachs said. "Nobody was playing into the cameras. Nobody was blaming anybody else except looking at the responsibility themselves. That's why I closed the meeting."

Sachs says at one point in Palm Beach County, there were 2,126 homeless residents. Thomas Chealan, a Lake Worth Beach resident, is one of them.

"It's mind boggling really," he said. Chealan added that he has "$1,700 a month to live on."

Thomas Chealan
Thomas Chealan has been homeless for months, and is battling cancer.

He says he's been homeless for many months and sleeps in his car. He served in the military and is now battling cancer.

"I got a list from the VA, all the houses and everything," he said. "It's like one bedroom. You got to share the toilet for $800 a month. It's crazy, and you got to buy food."

"It's extremely hard because right now, we're facing corporate American homelessness," said Melissa Stringer, the event manager of Homeless Coalition. "So what people are doing is hiding, and so we really don't see who's really homeless because they're too ashamed to talk about it."

Chealan is willing to talk about it: "It's no such thing as golden years, I'll tell you that right now."

He's hoping for better days.