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West Palm Beach residents, business owners work to remedy growing homeless problem

'I want to see the people that are living in a very undignified way downtown with a basic shelter,' Sitima Fowler says
Posted at 6:20 PM, Sep 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-20 18:20:40-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Some residents and business owners in downtown West Palm Beach are speaking up about a homelessness issue they say is front and center.

"It's definitely a sensitive subject. There's human beings involved," Sitima Fowler, the president of the West Palm Beach Downtown Neighborhood Association, said.

Fowler was scheduled to host a panel discussion Wednesday night at Palm Beach Dramaworks to address solutions to downtown homelessness.

She already has some ideas.

"I want to see the people that are living in a very undignified way downtown with a basic shelter," Fowler said. "We got to get them the medical needs that they need, and it starts there. Let's get them to help they need with mental health let's get them to a place of self-sufficiency."

Sitima Fowler speaks about some of the solutions that she believes will curb homelessness in West Palm Beach.
Sitima Fowler speaks about some of the solutions that she believes will curb homelessness in West Palm Beach.

From a county-wide lens, homelessness is growing.

According to the most recent county data, the total number of unsheltered people in the county went from 1,404 in 2022 to 1,855 in 2023.

More than 500 of those people were found in District 7, an area that includes parts of downtown West Palm Beach. WPTV is waiting to get more specific data from the city of West Palm Beach.

"What does the data say and what can we do short term and what can we do long term and so that's why decided to have this event," Fowler said.

Omar Becerra discusses what he thinks should be done to reduce the number of homeless people living in West Palm Beach.
Omar Becerra discusses what he thinks should be done to reduce the number of homeless people living in West Palm Beach.

Business owners in the area like Omar Becerra are looking for the city to invest more in their partnerships with local groups and security.

"The Lord's Place is an organization that I donate to. My clothes, I shop at the stores and they take them and rehab them and put them back to work. Some of them have mental illness, put them in the hospital," Becerra said. "Some of them have drug problems, put them into rehab. It is not our problem. The mayor cannot dump those problems on our front door."

Others that WPTV ran into, like Anthony Greener, said homeless people just need someone to crack open the door of opportunity.

"Maybe to be employed by the city for a small wage of some sort to be able to go around and clean up that will help them be responsible for their own mess," Greener said. "It'll also give them a sense of well-being in their own mind to see that they've done something for the town that they live in."

Click here for more information on partnerships the city has with homeless outreach organizations.