By Scott Unger Key West Citizen
March 9, 2018
The clock is ticking for the relocation of Key West’s homeless shelter and while city commissioners agree where the facility shouldn’t go, where it should go remains a mystery.
The city is overdue to move the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter, currently located on Monroe County Sheriff’s property on College Road, stemming from a 2013 agreement with the adjacent Sunset Marina condo association. Last October, the county also set a year deadline to move the facility, which Sheriff Rick Ramsay has long desired.
Mayor Craig Cates led a discussion at Tuesday’s commission meeting to gauge whether board members would like to move the facility to one of three parcels slated for an affordable housing project on College Road. The board agreed it shouldn’t be installed next to workforce housing and the county should work with the city to solve the problem they share.
Board member Clayton Lopez said homeless traverse the entire Keys and equated the region to a thermometer with Key West at the bottom.
“We’re at the bulb of that thermometer holding all the mercury,” Lopez said.
Billy Wardlow said the facility should either stay where it is or be relocated to Bayshore Manor and move those 16 residents to the soon-to-be-opened Poinciana Gardens Senior Living facility in Key West. The Monroe County Commission declined to pursue that option last month.
Sam Kaufman said the county should be approached without specifics, Margaret Romero suggested looking at viable county property, and Jimmy Weekley said it is tough to make a location decision until after the public referendum to raise height limits for the affordable housing project is decided, which will occur Tuesday.
Romero offered Little Hamaca Park and the dog park on Trumbo Road as potential sites, but Cates said specific locations will be discussed later and the point was to gauge board interest in moving the facility to the College Road parcels.
Monroe County Mayor David Rice agreed the city and county share the homeless problem and said he would be happy to discuss the situation with city leaders.
“I think that the county and the city should take a shared responsibility for essentially the cost … of providing the things that are necessary to deal with the homeless issue,” Rice said.
The two sides need to look at the issue holistically, as the county currently covers medical and jailing costs of homeless and has provided a site for the shelter, while the city maintains the facility, Rice said.
“We haven’t looked at it as a whole issue,” he said.
The city needs to find a solution quickly as the October deadline looms, according to Rice.
“The time is here that the city really has to come to grips with this issue,” he said. “I think there are a number of forces coming together that all together are shouting that something needs to be done.”