PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The homeless camp at John Prince Park is a sight that’s received a lot of attention - from complaints to solutions.
“I’m blessed but 90 percent of us are one paycheck away from just where these people are,” said Mary Lou Constant, Lake Worth Beach resident. “I live right down the street and I drive by this going to I-95 every day.”
Meanwhile, two to three times a week outreach teams from the nonprofit Faith-Hope-Love-Charity Inc./Stand Down looks for homeless veterans to move out of the unofficial tent city.
“It’s called outreach. It’s what I do,“ said Lamar Powell, FHLC, Inc./Stand Down outreach coordinator. “A lot of times there’s leads that come out of here because this is where they are.”
The nonprofit is responsible for moving three veterans from the park into permanent housing in the last month. And there’s a strong push from the county to see the same results for both vets and non-vets.
“Once we get someone housed there are other needs that they’re going to have. Start with the housing and then it’s easier to provide with the other services,” said Joshua Maddock, FHLC, Inc./Stand Down director of programs. “It’s sustainability. Benefits or employment. Connecting to healthcare resources.”
Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation is looking for opportunities to expand the number of shelter beds available for the homeless. Additionally, they’re evaluating an increase in law enforcement presence within the park and increased outreach by social workers to assess immediate needs.
The hope is that by incorporating some or all measures the homeless population in the park is reduced.
“That’s a great idea as long as you have a better alternative,” added Constant.
WPTV asked the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office about their part to reduce the homeless population, we were told their participation is only operational which they cannot discuss publicly.
Palm Beach County released the following statement:
To set the record straight, Palm Beach County staff is NOT removing persons because they are homeless from John Prince Park on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, as has been reported by the news media. Homelessness is a prevalent issue in our county, and it is the intent of the Board of County Commissioners to work with our municipal, faith-based, nonprofit and business partners to ensure homeless persons receive the services they deserve.
As soon as Wednesday, February 12, 2020, Palm Beach County’s Division of Human Services staff will be assessing the homeless population currently in John Prince Park to determine what services they may be eligible to receive.
Palm Beach County has a long history of providing assistance to the homeless. In 2012, the Lewis Center was opened to transition individuals and families out of homelessness. A second homeless resource center was recently approved in unincorporated Lake Worth. Two recent outreach programs include the Parks-to-Work program by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department that has employed 48 homeless people to work in John Prince Park. The 100-Day Challenge administered by the Community Services Department succeeded by assisting 121 homeless youth into housing.
Human Services staff will not be available for news media interviews. Please direct your inquiries to PublicAffairs@pbcgov.org