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Lake Worth Beach may lift sleeping in public ban

'Lacking shelter shouldn’t be a crime,' Lindsay McElroy says
Homeless man sleeping in West Palm Beach.
Posted at 6:13 PM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 18:13:17-04

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — The issue of affordable housing is taking center stage in Lake Worth Beach and it’s affecting the most vulnerable population in our community.

Lake Worth Beach is now declaring a housing state of emergency. As the city works to evaluate why we are seeing these rising rents, another ordinance regarding homelessness and sleeping on the street is also on their radar.

For hours Tuesday night, city leaders heard from Lake Worth Beach residents voicing their concerns that the soaring cost of rent is squeezing them out of their homes.

“We’ve been having people come to our doors every single day with their children, sleeping on the streets,” said Lindsay McElroy of the Guatemalan Maya Center, “but it just means the Lake Worth Beach community is being broken apart.”

McElroy said the lack of affordability is leading to a greater issue of homelessness with her organization.

“If we’re not implementing measures that keep people in their homes and create a bigger inventory of the housing supply, then we will see people sleeping on the street,” she said. “We need to prevent that.”

The city is now looking into removing the ordinance that bans sleeping in public.

“There’s a belief that if you take away these ordinances, it’s just going to encourage more camps and things like that. That’s just simply not true,” said Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Reinaldo Diaz. “It’s these ordinances, it’s putting people in the criminal system, that never-ending revolving door of the criminal system, that’s what keeps people on the streets but it’s going to be one less obstacle for our houseless community to get the help that they need to improve their situation.”

“Lacking shelter shouldn’t be a crime,” said McElroy. “The people are desperate to find a place to live and they come to us desperate to find a place to live.”

As city commissioners look for solutions, Diaz said the city’s concentrated focus on the housing crisis plans to hopefully give temporary reprieve on rent hikes.

“We’re kind of known as the haven for affordability and so we’re feeling extra pressure with this housing crisis,” he said.