By Timothy O’Hara Key West Citizen

October 18, 2017
Monroe County and city of Key West mayors have informally discussed the possibility of converting Bayshore Manor senior assisted living facility into a homeless shelter, but a formal agreement has yet to be reached.

The Monroe County Commission will most likely discuss the proposal when it meets on Wednesday at the Marathon Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. today.

Key West Mayor Craig Cates plans to bring the proposal before the Key West City Commission when it meets in November, Key West Mayor Craig Cates said.

Both commissions would have to vote on the proposal to use the county-owned Bayshore Manor property for KOTS (Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter).

Last week, Cates, County Mayor George Neugent and County Administrator Roman Gastesi informally discussed a proposal that would call for the the 1-acre Bayhore Manor facility and property to be converted into KOTS.

The 16 Bayshore Manor residents and the 10 beds for respite care would be moved to a 108-room senior living facility at Poinciana Plaza in Key West currently under construction, according to Cates. The new facility should be completed within the next six to eight months, Cates said.

Cates said the new facility is newer and nicer and the county would not have to pay to maintain the facility. The new facility will be run by a private, third-party contractor.

“This is a brand new, state-of-the-art facility that people would want to move into,” Cates said.

Cates announced the proposal on U.S. 1 radio on Monday morning and said there was an agreement. That sparked a flood of calls from the family of Bayshore Manor residents and facility staff to county personnel who oversee the facility. Staff and family were concerned that there was an agreement in place and they were not notified.

Residents’ family members were concerned that the residents would have to move and staff was concerned that they would no longer have jobs.

“Bayshore Manor provides 16 affordable housing units for our most frail, elderly citizens in Monroe County,” said Sheryl Graham, senior social services director for the county. “To take these 16 affordable housing units dedicated to our vulnerable elderly offline would be senseless. … Bayshore Manor holds a rich and fascinating history that our residents, families, and staff love.”

County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said she was opposed to the idea.

“That is their home,” Murphy said. “These seniors are happy there. To turn that facility into a homeless shelter would be a travesty.”

Commissioner Heather Carruthers said she is not opposed to discussing the idea, but wants to know what the costs would be to relocate the seniors to a new facility and the level care they would receive at the facility at Poinciana Plaza.

“They better be going to a better place not a lesser place and a place they can afford,” Carruthers said.

The county spends roughly $800,000 a year staffing and maintaining Bayshore Manor, according to Graham.

Neugent said the discussion with Cates was informal and any decision would have to be made by the full County Commission. Neugent, Cates and Gastesi were trying to find a solution about where to place KOTS.

KOTS is currently located next to the Sheriff’s Office headquarters and jail on Stock Island. The County Commission voted unanimously last month to give the city a year to move KOTS, because Sheriff Rick Ramsay wants to place employee housing on that property, despite Cates wanting to maintain it as KOTS.

The city agreed to move KOTS several years ago, as it was established as a temporary facility more than 10 years ago with no contract. The city has also been sued over the location and agreed to move the shelter, drawing up plans that were presented but rejected by the City Commission in 2015.