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Candidates for mayor plan to add more housing, shelters, and enforcement to address homelessness

Posted at 5:51 PM, Feb 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 20:25:48-05

People say they are fed up with what they are seeing happening in their own city. Pictures posted on a West Palm Beach community Facebook page shows what appears to be a homeless person sleeping on an air mattress on Rosemary avenue. Locals are asking who is going to step up and fix the issue?

Susan Landeryou, 70, used to enjoy her walks along Flagler Drive on the docks until she says a homeless man took one of her dogs from its stroller carrier and ran with it, dropping the dog in the middle of Flagler drive.

"It was beyond terrifying," said Landeryou. "I certainly feel unsafe. I've been afraid to walk down to South Cove nature area ever since it happened."

Landeryou's seven pound dog Lola was already sick before the incident. The dog died two weeks later. Now more than ever, Landeryou wants the city to do something about the homeless issues.

"They're affecting the quality of life of every Downtowner in a very negative way," added Landeryou.

Next month West Palm Beach will elect a new mayor. The candidates all stress that homelessness is a problem. City Commissioner Paula Ryan aims to push for partnerships and housing opportunities.

"So you have to create environments that they have other places to go to during the times in which visitors are here, on our waterfront, that businesses are conducting business. Right now they're just isn't that kind of alternative for them and it may take us driving them to this place," said Commissioner Ryan.

Commissioner Ryan strongly believes in purchasing facilities that can be renovated and created to provide an alternative to the homeless camping out on local streets. She believes expanding resources, but also removing those who are dangerous to others.

"Arresting them is not the answer. Arresting those that are creating problems, dog napping, stabbing, those that are the criminally violent individuals, we have to get off the streets," said Commissioner Ryan.

Commissioner Keith James is also running for mayor. He wants to hire a private security group with dollars from the general fund and call them 'community ambassadors'. The 'ambassadors' would be tasked with specifically doing welfare checks on the homeless and meeting with them even several times a day to get those who want help the resources they need and likely push out those who are creating problems for locals.

"I think the additional twist that I'm adding is the enforcement measure. Also working with private businesses so that they can execute trespass affidavits so it makes it easier for our law enforcement to enforce trespass laws on private party; it's still more difficult on public property and that's where our homeless ambassadors come in," said Commissioner James.

Former county mayor and state representative Priscilla Taylor is also running for mayor and aims to put an emphasis on shelters and housing.

"The biggest problem I see is affordable housing. We have to have some type of public-private partnership to bring in landlords who will lease to individuals and also work with the municipalities in order to take care of this problem," said Taylor.

Landeryou feels she speaks for most of her Downtown neighbors she the says something has to change.

"I would like to see our police force enforce our city ordinances. I think that would go a long way towards cleaning up the homeless problem," added Landeryou.

All of the candidates did stress that the homeless issue should not fall on police, but they do plan to work closely with law enforcement. Mayor Geri Muoio has already budgeted more than 4 million dollars to address homeless issues and of the candidates expressed they'd like to build on that.

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Links to each candidate's homelessness plan:
- Paula Ryan
- Keith James
- Priscilla Taylor