Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Palatka Trying to Address Issue of Homelessness; More Concerns Raised about Impact of Homeless People on Downtown

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Palatka Trying to Address Issue of Homelessness; More Concerns Raised about Impact of Homeless People on Downtown

Article excerpt

Byline: Dana Treen

A fledgling effort will be launched Tuesday in Palatka to bring together advocates for the homeless as well as those concerned about their impact on the city's downtown, its appearance and growth.

The past several months have brought an increase in complaints and questions about what the city can do to address the issue, said Assistant Police Chief James Griffith. Concerns over aggressive panhandling will mix with the quest to establish shelters and services, he said.

"We're looking for some input and some information," Griffith said.

Construction on a Hampton Inn will start later this year downtown on the St. Johns River, according to the city, and a Georgia-Pacific environmental resource center is also planned. Other plans to build condominium units and business space are in the works.

A recent homeless count found a dozen or so homeless adults within the city limits, and new business owners have raised concerns about panhandling, public urination and unwanted sleeping in business doorways.

"What we are going to see is people expecting it to be a certain way," Griffith said of the city's future face. "People aren't going to want to go to see an encampment of homeless people. As certain areas change the expectation of how an area should look changes."

The number of homeless children across Putnam County was measured at about 600 on top of more than 50 adults in a recent survey, said Angie Pye, the executive director of the Lee Conlee House, a shelter for abused women.

She said the shelter is not equipped to address homelessness, which extends to children who may not be in the street but are living in homes of friends or relatives. Making an accurate count is difficult, she said. Homeless people may have lost jobs or in other crises and are embarrassed to let that out.

"This community is really hurting in unemployment and poverty," Pye said. …

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