Friday, November 23, 2007


Of the 1,108 posts I've written since I began this blog in 2002, 81 of them never made it to the internet. I wrote this one last Sunday but didn't bring it to a clean conclusion. I'm posting it anyway, since it has some things in it I consider important.

Now it's the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday as the merchants call it. Janet was out early to a hair appointment. I walked Rommel down to Mallory Square at about 9:00 A.M. I ran into three of our voluntarily-homeless population there. They mistook me for a tourist mark and tried gifting me with a woven palm rose. When I declined, the woman (who has the strong mark of alcohol in her face) said, "You must be a local." The other two men stood back and insulted her by telling her that Rommel didn't like her smell and that he would, "tear her ass off". There are small groups like this who traverse Old Town all day, every day, panhandling when they can do it without getting spotted by the police. The "free" palm rose is just a ploy to get people to stop and hear the pitch for money, whatever it is.

I remember a guy who cruised Duval Street when we first came here. He had a Marine Corps tattoo on his right bicep that he would show, and a pitch about his brother in the County Jail on Stock Island and how he only needed another dollar-fifty, or whatever amount he chose to use, to get him bailed out. Once he told me the story (for about the fourth time) and he only needed thirty-five cents.

This is the time of year when the population of these poor souls goes up as it gets colder in the north. There are regular encampments of them at Higgs and Smathers beaches during the day, along with those who are "working" downtown. They give homelessness a bad name. Contrast them with the people described in this story from today's Solares Hill. The Key West Community truly does care for the involuntarily homeless. But even many of those disapprove of the vagrant homeless behavior that is disrespectful, distasteful or debauched. There isn't much that any one can do about them. The entry ays this:
vagrants may not be punished for being vagrants; only persons who commit culpable acts are liable for criminal sanctions —State v. Richard, 836 Pacific Reporter, Second Series 622 (1992)

(unfinished but posted anyway)


abcdefg said...

These housing chalanged people are taking over our island. It has gotten to the point where people can't even enjoy a day on the beach without being harassed and bothered for money by someone stikking of booze as they say they don't drink.

Singing to Jeffrey's Tune said...

There used to be a lot of them under the Cow Key bridge, so many in fact, people wrote songs about them. I found if I find one that is fairly sentient, give them a $20 to leave me alone if they see me again, they do so and have the others leave me alone for the month or so I am there. Although living there, you probably have a different take. I have to say, they are not on Duval like they used to be, but seem to have migrated more to the beaches and Stock Island.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. Been reading your blog for a long time. Not trying to be smart. I've visited your lovely little island and I saw your homeless. I live up north where we have lots more homeless. I read so often that the homeless travel to Key West when it gets cold up north. Is that true? Really? How do they pay for their way there? Again, not trying to be smart or insult anyone...but how many homeless travel to KW for the winter?

Gyrene said...

Read your blog. I live up north & just lost my job. I've never relied upon anyone before & don't want to burden what little family I have left, so I'm choosing to move to keywest until I can get out of this slump I'm in.
I just don't want to become one of those "panhandlers" you were talking about. Are there other homeless there that tend to stray away from this activity... maybe like a commune of lost souls & artists... or do they all seem like vagrants & riff-raff?

northstarbrad said...

I'm houseless(homeless) live in my van and stay at friend from city to city, sleep on the streets in between vans. Its a tuff life but its my life. I don't ask/beg for money, don't drink in public, and I am clean. I love going the Keys in the winter (when I do have gas money,lol)just hope this doesn't ruin it for my friends and I in the future. I try to look as good as I can in public, maybe to good when someone ask me for a dollar.

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