Broward’s working on solutions to homelessness
Broward County’s homeless population is a divisive issue. Isn’t it illegal, some ask, to camp out on the streets? Shouldn’t there be a law to stop wellmeaning individuals and groups from bringing food to homeless encampments, who are unintentionally making the problem worse?
There are a couple of fallacies behind this kind of thinking. First, homelessness is not a crime. Second, numerous studies have shown that passing laws aimed at criminalizing the homeless is costly and ineffective.
Not that it hasn’t been tried. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, in recent years the lion’s share of attempts to legislate homelessness out of existence have been punitive. Usually this approach involves passing laws prohibiting things like sleeping, eating or loitering in public spaces — unavoidable activities for someone who has no private space.
The idea is that being tough on the homeless will force them off a life on the streets. But homelessness is rarely a lifestyle choice.
Ironically, arresting violators of laws targeting homeless activities turns them into criminals, subject to jail time and fines they can’t pay — inviting re-arrests. Criminal records reinforce the stubborn myth that people experiencing homelessness are by nature dangerous, though the truth is they’re far more likely to be victims of violence than its perpetrators. And, of course, having a police record makes finding employment that much more difficult.
Humane legal measures that aim to help the homeless receive critical services — from shelter to food to medical care — are the only proven methods to eradicating homelessness and they require a broad-based community effort.
Merely kicking people out of a homeless encampment and making it impossible for them to return is not the answer. We need to address the social issues at the core. That’s why the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, of which I am a member, has teamed up with United Way of Broward County to spearhead the Broward Business Council on Homelessness, which will collaborate with Broward County, City of Fort Lauderdale and other municipalities and partners to attempt to address the core issues and help ameliorate homelessness in our community.
Broward County’s Homeless Initiative Partnership and the Homeless Continuum of Care Board have already been transitioning from a “housing readiness” to a “Housing First” model that has been successful in many other communities. It’s a humane, comprehensive solution that attempts to take people out of the vicious cycle of chronic homelessness, arrests and/or hospitalizations by getting them into their own housing — and then addressing the mental and medical health care they need. In Orlando, this approach reduced the homeless population by more than 60 percent in just three years. During the same period, the cost of public services per homeless person dropped from over $31,000 a year to approximately $10,000 a year.
Not only is it a financially responsible approach for the community, but most importantly, it’s a humane and socially responsible solution that protects quality of life for all stakeholders while preserving the dignity of those in our community experiencing homelessness.
If you’re a member of the business community and want to learn more about the Broward Business Council on Homelessness, please call 954-462-4850. Organizations wishing to assist in the efforts of the Homelessness Collaborative in Broward are encouraged to call 954-357-6101, or email
Barry Somerstein (partner, Greenspoon Marder, LLP) is part of the Alliance/United Way’s Broward Business Council on Homelessness and has been assisting with efforts led by the county convening community stakeholders to address homelessness. Let’s understand, support and celebrate aging
The U.N. has designated Oct. 1 as The International Day for Older Persons, reaffirming its commitment to promoting the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by older persons. In South Florida, nearly one in four people will be at least 65 years old by 2040. Contrary to conventional wisdom of growing old, only four percent of seniors reside in skilled nursing facilities.
Seniors currently make up five percent of the U.S. labor force. We are living longer and our demographics make South Florida the perfect setting to create a better way to understand, support and celebrate aging.
Peter Kaldes, Esq., president and CEO, South Florida Institute on Aging, Fort Lauderdale
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Marco Cirrincione, Tamarac
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Graham called Thursday’s Senate hearing, among other things, "the most unethical sham since I've been in politics.” Selective amnesia strikes again. No, senator, the most despicable, unethical sham happened two years ago when Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, refused to even consider President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. The 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee then signed a letter saying they had no intention of consenting to any nominee from Obama. No proceedings of any kind were held on Garland's appointment. It's payback time.
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