The housing alternative is officials' latest solution to the city's growing homeless problem.
By Associated Press
Published January 4, 2004
KEY WEST - A city that has long grappled with how to manage its growing homeless population is considering a new plan: giving them someplace to live.
Key West and Monroe County officials have proposed building a small tent city near the jail on Stock Island by the end of the year.
Until then, they propose erecting a temporary version along the Bridle Path.
The City Commission will discuss the plan Tuesday.
Dozens of new transients flock to Key West each year, attracted in part by its climate.
Over the years, the city has proposed various ways to deal with the influx, including a failed plan to send transients 150 miles north to shelters in Miami.
Key West is trying to preserve the laid-back, worry-free image it projects to tourists.
The city essentially banned homeless people from an area that includes the famous Duval Street bars Sloppy Joe's and Hog's Breath Saloon, several hotels and restaurants, and the main stop for a popular tourist train that winds through the city.
But city officials said a legal case makes it hard to remove homeless people from streets and parks if there is no housing alternative, such as a shelter, for them.
City commissioners this week also will review City Manager Julio Avael's plan to fingerprint and photograph homeless people sleeping in city streets and parks.
Assistant City Manager John Jones said the fingerprinting and photographing are necessary to identify people who continue to trespass after being told to leave parks.
But civil liberties groups objected to the order, as did several city commissioners, who said they are not in favor of taking such information from someone who has not been charged with a crime.
Avael bypassed the commission when he signed an executive order enacting the plan last month, but attorneys advised him to seek the commissioners' review.