Key West weighing tent city for homeless

Also, the city will review a plan to fingerprint and photograph the homeless sleeping in public places.

Published: Sunday, January 4, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 3, 2004 at 11:57 p.m.
KEY WEST - A city that has long grappled with how to manage its growing homeless population is now considering a new plan - giving them someplace to live.
City and Monroe County officials 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 of their plan along the Bridle Path, and the City Commission will discuss the plan on 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, 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 will also 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 is necessary to identify people who continue to trespass after being told to leave parks. But civil liberties groups objected to the order - and so have 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 last month to enact the plan, but attorneys advised him to seek commissioners' review.

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