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Where Have All The Homeless Gone? Library Campers Scatter to Other Grounds, Some Find Roofs

| May 7, 2019

The former homeless  camp near the library has been razed of human beings and replaced with a no-trespassing sign even though no construction has yet been approved, or permitted. (© FlaglerLive)

The former homeless camp near the library has been razed of human beings and replaced with a no-trespassing sign even though no construction has yet been approved, or permitted. (© FlaglerLive)

If irony were revenue, Flagler County might have generated a bundle this afternoon as the county’s Homeless and Housing Task Force held its monthly meeting.


The task force met at the county library on Palm Coast Parkway, a few hundred feet from where one of the county’s largest homeless encampments sprawled until just a few weeks ago, when crews first exposed it by denuding the woods as effectively as if they’d sprayed Agent Orange before clearing the grounds of the 20 to 30 people who’d lived there. Crews turned the entire 19 acres into a fenced-in, no-trespassing construction zones. No permit has yet been pulled for construction. Not a penny has been appropriated for the project. No firm has been secured to draw up the designs for the sheriff’s building to be built there, no bid process issued. The county may soon raze some trees at least to keep up the pretense of a construction zone meanwhile.

Still, the task force spent 90 minutes discussing how a community can best work together to care for the homeless, connect them to services, find them a permanent home, get around to attracting the sort of developers who’d be willing to build affordable apartments that don’t generate the sort of profits most developers are interested in, because the assumption that so many of the homeless don’t want help “is not true,” Amada Rosado of the Florida Housing Coalition told the 45 people gathered at the library. “They do want help. They just don’t want the kind of help we’re providing.”

So where did those 20 to 30 people go?

Janet Nickels, county government’s point person on the homeless, knows many in person. She’s been extending services and help to them for years, and was directly involved in trying to help the former dwellers of the library camp.

According to her, by the time county crews gave the order to clear out, only 20 people were left in the camp (though the visible sprawl of their tents and tarps suggested many more). Half refused services and went “to another encampment.”

She did not specify which, though Pastor Sims Jones of Bunnell, who took part in the annual “point-in-time” census of the county’s homeless in January, outlined the possible camps: he said one camp now sprawls at what used to be the disused Matanzas golf club at the north end of town. There was one by the Palm Coast water tower. There’s one beyond the railroad in Bunnell, in the area of Deen Road. There’s one behind Wendy’s on Palm Coast Parkway. Jones said the homeless also like to gather on grounds near Walmart on the east side of the grounds.

Amanda Rosado of the Florida Housing Coalition sought to dispel a few myths about homelessness at a meeting at the library today. (© FlaglerLive)

Amanda Rosado of the Florida Housing Coalition sought to dispel a few myths about homelessness at a meeting at the library today.
(© FlaglerLive)

And others? According to Nickels, one couple got a home on the St. Johns River with the county and a local organization securing the first and last month’s rent. A woman on Social Security disability got repatriated to Ohio by her family. A young man got a bus ticket to Plant City, with a resident donating the taxi fare to get him to the bus stop. (A Guardian investigation last December found that thousands of homeless are bused out or flown out of communities on one-way tickets every year.) A young woman is working with Stewart Marchman, the behavioral health agency, but it’;s not clear whether her housing situation has stabilized. A young man had the opportunity to go to the Salvation Army in Volusia County. Nickels drove him there. He then asked to be taken back to Flagler to reclaim his tent, and to be left alone. Another woman got housing in Volusia. Some are staying with friends or family. It was not a precise census, but it gave an idea of how and where the encampment was scattered, with a majority ending up in tents elsewhere. One woman who’d been homeless behind the library got a donated camper, thanks to Denise Calderwood, who’s had close supportive associations with the homeless, and is living at Thunder Gulch campground in Bunnell.

In any case, January’s point-in-time count found at least 130 homeless people, according to Rosado, a number she and Jones both said is likely an undercount. Jones said he knew of encampments that had been “cleared” by the time he got there with other volunteers to count the homeless (he was not referring to the library spot). The tents were there. The men and women were not, giving him the sense that there was an intended effort to keep Flagler’s homeless from being accurately counted.

It explained why Rosado’s conclusion after the most thorough presentation of the day–that “Flagler really has a long way to go”–may have been an understatement.

It has such a long way to go that even the county’s $300,000 in homeless assistance money, money channeled from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department and its state equivalent to the Volusia-Flagler Housing Coalition, is going mostly to Volusia agencies who claim to be spending the money on Flagler’s homeless, because there aren’t enough agencies in Flagler that can administer that kind of money.

It has a long way to go because there are no shelters in Flagler other than the emergency, cold-weather shelter, open only on nights when the temperature falls below 40 degrees, and the Family Life Center, the the shelter for abused people that’s usually at capacity.

It has a long way to go because sheltering, in any case, is not the goal anymore. Sheltering, transitional housing, emergency assistance–all those means, while worthy in and of themselves, only stretch out an individual’s homeless situation, Rosado says. It’s counter-intuitive, but that sort of help is counter-productive, in the new thinking of homeless assistance. In comparison, a permanent home stabilizes an individual’s life in such a way that it makes all that other assistance–help with addiction, help finding a job, help with health concerns–much easier, now that the individual has a place he or she can call home. It relieves an immense stressor in the individual’s life, making tending to other needs easier.

“Housing really is the issue here,” Rosado said. “Housing first.” It costs “less than almost any other intervention we have.” And most of the homeless do want help, Rosado stressed: 32 percent are homeless because of financial issues, 23 percent are homeless because of family issues. And only 12 percent because of medical issues. A third, according to recent surveys, live in the woods, 23 percent of them on streets “downtown.” The numbers are reflective of Volusia and Flagler together, not Flagler alone.

Absent housing options, Flagler is not likely to get much further than it is now. One approach, Carrie Baird, who heads the coalition, is to look for non-profit developers such as Carrfour Supportive Housing, which builds affordable housing with the homeless in mind. It started in Miami. Jack Howell, the Palm Coast councilman, said at the meeting it’s a matter of re-educating the public to enable local governments not to be bombarded with opposition from constituents every time one of those governments considers approving an affordable housing complex. On the other hand, two large apartment complexes are under development in Palm Coast’s Town Center, and Baird said more affordable housing projects may be near. And former Sheriff Jim Manfre, an attorney, said he’s involved in a group looking to explore the affordable housing development option.

County administrator Jerry Cameron attended much of the meeting but did not speak. Commissioner Joe Mullins did, previewing Wednesday’s meeting of the Public Safety Coordinating Council, a panel he chairs, where he said he would be discussing legislation that would institute new “rules” regarding homelessness and panhandling in the county. There’s been little appetite on local governments or from the sheriff’s side for such rules.

A formerly homeless woman at the library grounds shows the key to her camper, donated and secured at Thunder Gulch campground. (© FlaglerLive)

A formerly homeless woman at the library grounds shows the key to her camper, donated and secured at Thunder Gulch campground.
(© FlaglerLive)

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25 Responses for “Where Have All The Homeless Gone? Library Campers Scatter to Other Grounds, Some Find Roofs”

  1. Steve B says:

    Palm Coast is well known to to represent the rich and well to do. We are talking about the same Palm Coast that turns away manufacturing jobs so that it can maintain a sophisticated retirement community, and not a place for someone to get a decent job.
    Of course Palm Coast has an interest I’m the homeless… An interest in how to get them to disappear.

  2. Flagler County Resident says:

    Housing First makes sense, because it accomplishes two primary goals:

    1. Gets the homeless out of public lands where some of them become problematic to the rest of the citizens.
    2. Allows case workers and social workers to offer interventions that really help. Hard to do that when a person lives in the woods and is gone panhandling at various locations and doesn’t have transportation nor decent cell signal.

    We can all go out there and provide job opportunities, medical assistance, programs, programs, and more programs, but we’ll be spinning our wheels, spending human resource dollars and gasoline to combat something that’s not likely to work for an individual exposed to substances, wildlife, lack of privacy, and survival needs on a daily basis..

    We need housing. Just more housing options. Even if we didn’t use the “Housing First” approach, what would the individual do with a full time minimum wage job? What happens when the person finally gets a job even making $10/hr? or $1733 minus FICA, taxes and health insurance?

    What studios are available? What one bedrooms are available? Where does the person on disability getting $1200/mo do after jumping through program hoops?

    If we want to solve the homeless problem, we best increase our housing stock or it will get much worse. We don’t want that to happen. We’re growing, and we need to acknowledge that. Citizens need to get behind multi-unit housing complexes somewhere in the city. It just has to happen for us to continue being an awesome (and new) city.

    It benefits all of us!!

  3. The well intentioned says:

    I know many people believe the homeless are just down on their luck. This is the reality. Most are not homeless because of a lack of affordable housing. Don’t believe me? Talk to them. Most are not homeless because they can’t find work. Don’t believe me? Go ask any of them how many jobs they applied for in the last year. It will be at, or close to none. The truth is, if you talk to them, most will have a similar story. They are homeless because they have a disease. That disease is substance abuse. They are homeless because their families tried, for many years to help them, until they grew tired of it, and they chose to be homeless rather than to make an effort to beat addiction. Because unlike most other diseases, addiction is one where people often do not try to get better. They panhandle to support their addictions. They make more panhandling in a day than many of us. That money is rarely spent on food. It’s spent on alcohol or drugs. You can feed yourself off of $20 a day pretty easily. watch someone panhandling for an hour. You will see they often make that much in 20 minutes. If you watch long enough you will see them go spend it on alcohol or drugs. The reality is, the best way to help them would be to build better treatment facilities. But then you cannot force someone to go. And most would not go voluntarily. Don’t believe me? Go ask the homeless or anyone who has had to deal with addicts. sadly addiction is a disease we have little success, or desire, as a society, in treating. Helping the homeless will require more than coalition meetings and food and clothing donations, or shelters. These are cosmetic efforts that address cosmetic issues and not the proximate cause. You stop ships from sinking by plugging the hole. Not by throwing buckets of water out of the boat.

  4. ASf says:

    Sometimes, a carrot AND a stick works best. Then again, in some cases, it might be that there is little to nothing you can do to get the result you want. But you have to keep trying.

  5. Doug says:

    Homelessness is a “double-edged sword”. Nobody wants to be homeless, no one wants to see it, no one wants it in their community and no matter what local government does to address it, people will still gripe. Me personally, it was an eyesore and sad to see what has become of this county. Ironically, just yesterday, I saw what I believed to be a homeless man walking east over the Hammock Dunes bridge with his belongings. I’m sure the “rich and well to do’s” from Hammock Dunes will gladly welcome the homeless into their community.

  6. Plain and Simple says:

    Affordable housing and Manufacturing jobs definitely need to be brought to Flagler County, that’s a given. As for the homeless, nothing was done for years and now all of a sudden the sky is falling, some of these folks choose to get better and have, some want to continue the lifestyle, if so they need to move on from Flagler as a whole, not from PC to Bunnell just because the Sheriff wants a new building. For the newly posted construction area. All large areas belonging to the County and or Cities should be maintained as such, All the time, shine a light on them and it gets better theory. Offer these areas as dog parks, cross-fit parks/ paths etc. Inexpensive terms /places that detours unwanted activity of all kinds.

  7. Shark says:

    Move them to Bings and give them all the perks Captain’s gets !!!!

  8. H Powell says:

    Wanted to respond re Bings Landing, but unable so sending this here hoping it would get to the correct place.
    My comment re Bings:
    There’s an old expression regarding the camel getting his nose under the tent and reviewing Bing’s history it appears that began a while ago and it appears we’ll soon be hosting the whole camel soon. I am obviously against this proposal and have seen it often in other areas.

  9. beachcomberT says:

    The “not our problem” mindset isn’t just in Palm Coast. We find it in all our richer suburbs in Flagler & Volusia. The years of bickering over the First Step shelter on US 92 in Daytona are well known, and are continuing. In the meantime, why can’t the 2 counties provide one or more temporary shelters with basic sanitation and security, such as a no frills campground or a trailer camp, harking back to the Great Depression, instead of pretending everyone is rich. During the condo boom, we destroyed several low rent trailer parks to clear land, and then the luxury condos never got built. Now we have Volusia County officials campaigning for more sales taxes to build turning lanes, a new Main Street bridge and 600 other projects — but not a penny for homeless housing. Pathetic.

  10. Fredrick says:

    I love seeing this article about the homeless and then see the add to the right looking for and additional $25,000 to match the artists $25,000 for a “sculpture” in a park…. Do you think we have some priorities mixed up? Maybe we should let the homeless camp around this piece of “art” in the park so they can see how our societies priorities are structured. It would also allow those who want to go enjoy this piece of “art”, see what the real world is like.

  11. oldtimer says:

    Half the homeless refused help …..

  12. Sloan Bashinsky says:

    P.S.
    I suppose in God’s eyes, we all are homeless.

  13. Sloan Bashinsky says:

    A friend who used to live in Key West sent me this article, which appears to have been written by someone(s) who are new to the homeless arena.

    For example, housing first was started in Salt Lake City after Mormon leaders were persuaded it was the cheapest and most effective way to make progress with homelessness. Yet, that, and the results in Salt Lake, are not mentioned in this article.

    Nor does it seem the author(s) spent time living in homeless camps, getting to know homeless people. Anyone who does that gets to know that terrain very differently from what is written about it in newspapers, said about it in public meetings, etc.

    I was homeless off and on for many years in Key West and elsewhere. Not because I was an addict. Not because I was crazy. But for reasons peculiar to me and my walk with God.

    I learned long-term homeless (street) people, in the main, are (a) addicts who have no interest in giving up their habits and/or (b) are mentally ill and do not care to take meds, the side effects of which cause most of them even more problems. Furthermore, if they are using addicts and are mentally ill, their habitual drug(s) of choice interfere with the meds’ hoped for beneficial effect.

    Although from time to time, what perhaps could be viewed as an Act of God, or sudden awakening, causes a homeless person to turn on a dime and return to mainstream living in some way, that’s not the fate of the rest of the street people. The question for them is, how much money does society wish to spend trying to fix them, even though relatively few of them can be fixed, absent a miracle?

    I think homelessness will increase. I think society should put its primary effort into trying to help people on the verge of becoming homeless from going there, for once someone becomes homeless, it is more difficult to reverse it, and the longer someone is homeless, the even more difficult it becomes to reverse it.

    I also think long-term homelessness is a symptom, a messenger, of something amiss in society. Modern medicine and mental health and governments have proven over and over that treating symptoms does not cure people, but only enables them to keep being who they are.

    So, I am saying here their is no cure. There is no fix. And, how much money and hand-wringing does society wish to throw at what it cannot fix? And, where will society let those poor souls live their truly difficult lives in relative peace?

    Any followers of Jesus involved in trying to help homeless people should keep ever in their thoughts and hearts, that he spent a great deal of time with street people, because he himself was a street person, who, unlike the foxes which had their dens, and the birds which had their nests, had no place to lay down his head at night.

    Jesus told a parable about sheep and goats, and what happened to the goats who did not feed him when he was hungry and comfort him when he was sick and visit him when he was in jail, etc.

    Jesus told his disciples the poor would always be with them. His disciples became homeless. Many early Christians were homeless.

    There but for the grace of God anyone goes.

    I suppose in God’s eyes, we all are homeless.

  14. atilla says:

    I don’t care where they went as long as they’re gone.

  15. Kris says:

    Mabye that construction sign is just a front and deterrent for the homeless

  16. really says:

    there around coming to an empty lot near you

  17. thomas says:

    God helps those who help themselves.

  18. Alonzo Hudson says:

    A common but bad situation. They need some help of us do from time to time. A lot of people are homeless by choice. How can we help them? S decision need to be made not be homeless anymore, I know it is a tough decision but a good decision when they act upon the decision.

  19. Concerned Citizen says:

    First.

    Many thanks to Denise Calderwood for her donation. A lot of us are out here on a daily basis trying to help these folks where we can.

    I mysef am not rich and live pay check to paycheck. However I’ll make sure someone has a meal, water and clothing appropriate for the season. “It takes a community” is so true in this case

    Second.

    @ Fredrick

    I could not agree with you more. Where is the call for donations to help the homeless. Where is the demand for funding for shelters and programs? Why aren’t these special interest groups helping instead of taking from the community?

    Instead there is a solicitation ad to raise money for a special interest that refered to his detractors as “assholes” no we haven’t forgotten that by the way. Instead the city wants to build splashpads and the county wastes millions on bum real estate deals. Lining the pockets of a local realtor and others.

    Our County/City leadership needs to wake up fast. They believe they are invincible and not irreplaceable. They stopped representing their constituents and only care about special interests and recieving bribes. Oops I meant “campaign contributions”

    They answer to us. We are the registered voters of Flagler County. We have an awesome responsibility not found in to many places of the world to elect the right people to represent our well being. Change is needed in this County and needed fast.

    We have elections not far away. We need to start demanding our BOCC’s and mayor step it up and do their jobs. Our Administrators and Elected officials need to drop the egos and put the County’s health and financial security first.

    If they refuse to listen then we make changes at the polls. Change starts with us.

  20. Mary says:

    If i remember correctly there is a law stating the homeless cannot be removed from public areas. Its their right to be there. They can put a tent in front of the courthouse if they wanted

  21. denise calderwood says:

    Apathy, ignorance , Lack of Caring, good words to use people. It shows you realty care! . I hope when you need services that our broken social service system or are greedy rich people who want to get richer find their moral compass. How about using words like accountability…the owners of Captains BBQ, Bull Creek Restaurant, Hijackers are all operating on county land and they pay less rent than anyone in Palm Coast does- or for that matter even Bunnell and Mondex for supposedly affordable housing $1000 rent for a trailer and Captains pays only $750- why hasn’t anyone questioned the Commissioners on those deals….if you do they say it was in the past but it is happening even now… county staff building beautiful cottages at Princess Place Preserve and a meeting hall at the Horseshoe Park all while the homeless camp kept growing behind the library when no new budget resources for social services were budgeted. In the1980’s Flagler County government had more money in their budget for social services than we do now and our population is over 100,000 people. Anyone see the picture yet….. where is the Accountability?

    I am thankful for Mr. Cameron, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Morton for taking their new roles so now lets see if they collectively can do something about our social ills before it is too late. We know the enablers are doing all they can do so what have the elected officials done…Ii cant even get a call back from them I guess they are too busy having fun at the restaurants they subsidize at our county parks and airport. .

  22. Concerned Business Owner says:

    I truly believe these people need help. My business is actually looking into helping some of these individuals start a better life. But the presence of the homeless in plain sight negatively affects local businesses. Also there is a danger when any individual suffers from substance abuse. They may do some illegal things to satisfy their need. It is definitely a difficult situation that will need a lot of planning to help the homeless while also protecting the rest of our community.

  23. Richard Calderwood says:

    Maybe some of the homeless can live at the horse shoe park. It has AC, toilets and sinks….how often do you think its used for horseshoes? And who paid for that? I don’t recall it on any agenda.

  24. Concerned Citizen says:

    @ Mary

    If you choose to remain homeless why should you have more rights than you or me? I own property I pay taxes and I work hard to keep my place nice. I’m pretty sure if I went and camped out tonight behind the library I’d go to jail.

    Most of these people choose the lifestyle they are living. We’ve just seen that one refused a donated camper. We’ve already read how one has left a shelter. What for? So they can go do dope and drink? And panhandle instead of work? Then it becomes not my worry.

    No if you are living in this country you should be subject to the laws just like I am. If you choose to not have a roof over your head why should you get a free pass?

  25. Charles says:

    AGENT ORANGE??????? YOU MUST BE KIDDING.

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