Fort Lauderdale has certain challenges to overcome in order to continue growing the downtown sphere. One of them is the displaced homeless community roaming the streets.
Recently removed from Stranahan Park, and now encamped at the Broward County Library downtown, the growing Fort Lauderdale homeless community has left the city at a loss. With so many commercial and residential development projects expected to fill the landscape, the city’s need for a permanent solution is more pressing every day.
Ben Sorenson, Fort Lauderdale’s Vice Mayor, is trying to find solutions by experiencing the problem firsthand. He moved his workspace earlier this year, from his air-conditioned office to the homeless camp at the County Library to spotlight the issue.
One of the solutions he and Robert McKinzie proposed last week is the creation of a daytime homeless shelter on city land in Flagler Village.
Located at Andrews Avenue and Northwest Second Street, as indicated on the Downtown Masterplan this property is envisioned as a park for the community. Ben Sorenson wants to re-create the abandoned “one-stop shop” ex-building department into a daytime facility for the homeless community instead.
This proposed concept would operate as a homeless headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, but only in the daytime. According to a report from the Sun Sentinel, Ben Sorensen said, “it could be used for bathrooms and storage of belongings.”
Ben Sorenson’s idea will tarnish the growing opportunity created by the newly built Brightline Station and will establish the wrong first impression for tourists, commuters, and residents new to our great city.
Sheila Franklin, who lives at Avenue Lofts on Andrews Avenue, said she was lured to the area a decade ago because of the city’s “vision and promise of Flagler Village.”
Today, she is among Flagler Village residents who have mounted a #OurNextPark campaign to convince our city commissioners to keep the space and turn it into a family park.
Like Mayor Trantilis said of the real estate commonly referred to as the gem of city’s portfolio, “My position is you don’t sell the family jewel to pay the light bill. It would be shameful if we discarded it.”
We need to continue creating spaces that push the culture of Fort Lauderdale forward. A community park is aligned with this forward thinking, not a daytime homeless facility.
We should ask our district commissioner to work with the County and Business Community to help relocate the downtown Fort Lauderdale homeless community.
This is best done by expanding on current shelters, creating new ones, and ultimately getting some of these people and families into permanent housing.
Lynne Wines, a high-profile banking executive, has recently been hired by United Way of Broward County to lead a new initiative to house the homeless. In May, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance announced it would partner with United Way on the United We End Homelessness initiative. Business leaders overseeing the effort are AutoNation Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson and Castle Group CEO James Donnelly, reported Marcia Heroux-Pounds of the Sun Sentinel.
With Lynne Wines at the helm, we are confident the Fort Lauderdale homeless community will be provided the resources and shelter they desperately need.