Sunday, March 3

Concerns grow as homeless population increases in West Palm Beach amid lack of resources

Thursday was Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, which brings attention to the lives lost on the streets nationwide.

It comes at a time when there are growing concerns over resources since the cost of housing has skyrocketed in the last few years in Florida.

Squad cars lined Dixie Highway while officers with the West Palm Beach Police Department gave directions while dozens of people without a home had their belongings moved off of the public sidewalks.

Over the last couple of weeks, St. Ann Place Director John Pescosolido said he’s seen more people displaced with fewer places to turn to.

“The homeless that have traditionally slept in parks or have hidden in doorsteps or in alleyways are now being displaced,” Pescosolido said.

Pescosolido said as the population grows so does the need to help those experiencing homelessness.

“Currently in Palm Beach County, we have the Phil Lewis Center for Homelessness. There are approximately 120 beds in their surplus that they can use on a given day,” Pescosolido said. “We probably have 500 people on the streets that are actively looking for a bed, but there’s not enough to put them in.”

Pescosolido said many folks in need are turning to nearby neighborhoods including Old Northwood Hill, which is where resident Taniel Koushakjian lives.

He too has noticed the concerns.

“I’m a runner. I go running through Currie Park on a weekly basis,” Koushakjian said. “I see the needles and the drug baggies and used condom wrappers and things like that, and it’s terrible to see.”

Koushakjian said the city and police department have worked with his neighborhood, looking to combat crimes like prostitution and drugs.

“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to public safety, and addressing some of the issues that we have with homelessness and the effects it has on residents and businesses,” Koushakjian said.

West Palm Beach Police Chief Frank Adderley said his officers are enforcing the law, adding that is illegal to block a public sidewalk or live in a public park, which can be considered trespassing.

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