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Homeless population increases in John Prince Park, nonprofits respond

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Posted at 4:23 PM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 18:41:24-05

John Prince Park is meant to be a place for families but has also become a home base for approximately 125 homeless people, up 28-percent from the summer. It’s catching the attention and visitors and the people who want to help.

For about a month Wilfredo Burgos Negron has called a tent pitched in John Prince Park home after losing his job as a property manager a-year-and-a-half ago in Stuart.

“I’ll settle for a straw hut – I just have to get out of here. I need my own roof over my head,” said Burgos Negron. “You can be one paycheck away from ending up like this.”

He’s referencing the unofficial tent city housing 125 people that has caught the attention of more nonprofits moving people like Negron out of the park.

Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation officials say the tents have been gradually popping up in the area in the past few months presumably because it’s close to the feeding area located at Commodore Pavilion.

Through a partnership between Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs the nonprofit Faith-Hope-Love-Charity, Inc. moved two more veterans out of the park this week and into temporary housing.

Palm Beach County Ordinance 21-30 states, “No person shall camp or erect or maintain a tent, shelter or camp within any park property except in areas designated by the Director for said purpose.” However, federal law prohibits local governments from citing persons or removing them from the property if they are homeless and the government does not have a shelter bed to offer them, according to officials.

The status of a task force to address homelessness is ongoing. Officials say there is a partnership with a number of community organizations to work to identify additional beds both in the short term and for a longer period.

Francky Pierre-Paul is the founder of A Different Shade of Love, Inc. Over the past two years he’s actively responded to the homeless crisis and says others in the public need to either step up or speak out.

“John Prince Park is two worlds right now,” said Pierre-Paul. “Go to county meetings. Sit and voice your opinions and voice your concerns. That’s what [officials] want. The more they know how you feel the more they’re willing to do what they can to make sure that we have our community and we have our parks back.”

To learn more about A Different Shade of Love, Inc. visit: https://www.adifferentshadeoflove.org/

To learn more about Faith-Hope-Love-Charity, Inc. visit: https://standown.org/