Friday, July 02, 2004

The Safe Zone

I drove by Higgs beach this morning and noted that ALL the campers are gone. There was a work gang from the jail cleaning up the trash. Yesterday, there were at least two dozen tents set up there.

Day before yesterday I gave a ride to a woman we met at SWB last week, from the Bridle Path at Smathers Beach to the so-called "Safe Zone" hard by the County jail on Stock Island. She was afraid to remain at the Bridle Path because Park Rangers and people from the Florida Keys Oureach Coalition had come by to say that police and Sheriffs deputies were going to start handing out violation notices starting July 1, and were going to arrest anyone not obeying the notices to move.

The City and County claim that the Safe Zone is open and operating, but you couldn't prove it by what I saw on Wednesday. The woman I brought out there decided, after seeing what was available, to use her Greyhound bus ticket out of town, even though she had to pay $10 to change the date of her departure. The Safe Zone might be better than the Bridle Path or Higgs Beach as a place to stay, but it is definitely nothing but the basics, and the workers there were encouraging people to think about moving along as soon as possible.

An organization to run the Safe Zone hasn't been found yet. Its supposed to be open 24X7, with some rules that didn't appear to be especially onerous for any one who is truly trying to work their way out of being homeless.

I give the Zone about six months until the word gets out that Key West doesn't welcome homeless people from elsewhere and makes life too difficult for them to even try to stay. It'll be interesting to see whether the ones who leave Key West merely drift on up the Keys (as I've heard some say they'll do) and relocate the "problem" to Marathon, Islamorado, or Key Largo. One thing is sure: they won't be going into the Ocean Reef Club. The Sheriff keeps six deputies there for round-the-clock coverage, even though the Club has its own security force.

I must now take a ride out to the Bridle Path to see what's happening there.

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