Commissioner Changes Office Location – Next to a Homeless Shelter

May 15, 2018 Last Updated: May 19, 2018

Fort Lauderdale city commissioner, Ben Sorensen, decided to hold his usual business meetings in a homeless camp in front of the main library in downtown Broward County on Friday, May 11, the Sun-sentinel reports.

Sorensen made the move from his usual office locale to draw attention to the problem of homelessness that the people of the city are facing.

Jesse Banner, a 66-year-old who lives in a tent behind Sorensen’s ‘office’, describes the encampment as “hell.” Banner told the Sun-sentinel that he simply can’t afford rent in Broward County where high rents and housing costs, relative to salaries, are a problem across the county.

Banner had moved to the outdoor encampment five months ago, as he couldn’t make it with his $436 monthly social security check.

Weighing up between the options of an outdoor camp or prison, Banner chose the former. He had already served time in prison in his younger years.

Relocating homeless people continues to be a struggle for the city and county, as many take refuge downtown and are feed by Good Samaritans. The city attempted to relocate the homeless camp a year ago. Personal belongings were dumped and the tents were pushed closer to the county’s side. But the city is now being sued for this act as a consequence, the Sun-sentinel reported.

 Sorensen, who was elected into office in March, is a founding member of Mission United, a United Way initiative that aims at reducing the rate of homelessness among military veterans.

Activist Paul Chettle walked through the camp with Sorensen. “He stopped at a couple of different tents and shook their hands,” Chettle said, “and if they wanted to speak to them he did.”

Sorensen, along with pastors and caseworkers, greeted the tent dwellers and helped them connect with the help that is available.

“I think he wants to bring better visibility to the situation,” said Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

Swindell said the business community has a renewed focus on getting people into permanent housing.

In the coming days, a new Broward Business Council on Homelessness will be launched, with business leaders like Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation Inc., and James Donnelly, chairman of the Broward Workshop of Business CEOs.

The United Way will host the new council.

Former Mayor Jack Seiler cited the city’s failures to address the negative impacts of homelessness as one of his only regrets when he left office in March.

“We can do better by these folks that need help,” Swindell said. “Forcing them to live in a park is not the solution.”

Credit: Tronc – Sun Sentinel

 

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