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John Prince Park inhabitants wait for emergency shelter amid storms, flooding

'Mayor' of homeless camp: 'There's people out here who really need help'
Homeless tents at John Prince Park
Posted at 3:43 PM, May 26, 2020

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The heavy rains and flash flooding South Florida has experienced over the last few days isn't just impacting drivers and some homeowners. It's also taking a physical and emotional toll on those who don't have a roof over their heads, particularly at John Prince Park, where the homeless are still waiting on an emergency shelter in Palm Beach County to open.

Kris Schuddekopf is called "mayor" of the homeless camp at John Prince Park.

"As soon as that sun comes up, they're knocking on my door saying, 'My tent's leaking or it got ripped,'" he said. "For a lot of people out here, it's frustrating."

He said the frustrations are two-fold -- flooding from heavy rains and an emergency shelter with an opening date in limbo.

"There's people out here who really need help," he said.

RELATED: Homeless seniors, veterans living in tents at John Prince Park

These days, when Schuddekopf's not using silicone and tape to repair battered tents, he's distributing donations dropped off at the park from Francky Pierre-Paul, CEO of A Different Shade of Love.

"I'm out here two time a day at least, especially during times like now," Pierre-Paul said. "There's tents, bug spray and tarps continually needed right now."

There's currently 185 homeless people in the park and 1,400 county wide battling the elements. At the park, caved-in tents surrounded by inches of water have become a daily occurrence.

Flooding near homeless tents at John Prince Park
Recent heavy rains have flooded the ground near where more than 100 homeless tents are in place at John Prince Park.

"They feel like they've been lied to," Pierre-Paul said.

Advocates and the homeless who spoke to WPTV NewsChannel 5 are referring to the 100 to 125-bed homeless emergency shelter near the South Florida Fairgrounds approved during a special meeting.

"The message right now is to get the temporary shelter open as soon as possible and to also provide necessary resources so that our homeless neighbors can also not feel like we're lying to them or that things are being delayed," Pierre-Paul said.

Assistant County Administrator Nancy L. Bolton said the temporary shelter "remains on track for completion in mid-to-late June."

Advocates claim the urgency for the county's emergency shelter is steadily increasing, just like the number of people who live at the park. In February, 140 people lived in the park. That number has now increased to 185.

"We don't have a home right now," Schuddekopf said.