Palm Beach County commissioners will vote this week on whether to turn the former County Detention Center near the South Florida Fairgrounds into a homeless shelter.
The discussion has gained traction largely since a recent report that a tent city including about 70 tents has appeared at John Prince Park in Lake Worth.
To that end, the proposal by County Mayor Dave Kerner calls for $892,000 in renovations to transform the former detention center, which has stood vacant for a decade, into a dorm-style shelter for 100 to 125 people, along with $7.7 million in operating costs through the end of next year.
“The need for temporary shelter is evident by the number of persons erecting tents in public parks, sleeping on park benches and under pavilions, residing in train stations and living in abandoned buildings in the metropolitan areas of Palm Beach County,″ the seven-page memo says.
The plan “should not be viewed as a stand-alone solution,” the document continues. “The strategy is intended to be flexible and can be contracted and expanded as needed or directed.″
Federal court rulings state that the county cannot deny the homeless life-sustaining activities such as sleeping and bathing if they do not offer those individuals an alternative.
County staff add that the plan would also help address overall homeless problems within the county, including waiting lists at the Lewis Center in West Palm Beach, which is currently the county’s only homeless resource center.
If commissioners approve during Tuesday’s vote, the fully staffed shelter could open within six to eight weeks, offering beds, showers, hotel meals, medical care and other resources for chronically homeless people, according to a county memo released late Friday.