Business owners in Lakeland’s Midtown corridor near Parker Street call the area a breeding ground for the homeless.
- Lakeland hires consultant to study homeless population
- Business owners near shelter tired of influx of homeless
It's where Talbot House Ministries provides 400 meals a day including breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the organization houses more than 100 people every night in its emergency shelter. It also has a free health clinic, a program dedicated to helping people overcome drug addiction, a shelter for the working homeless, and an employment program.
“Let me be clear, the people who are loitering on the streets here in the front of the Talbot House are not people in program. They’re people who are hungry, who’ve come to eat or they’ve stayed overnight in the emergency shelter and because they’re homeless, they have no place to go during the day. They stay close to where they can get food and shelter during the day,” explained the organization’s Executive Director Dr. Brenda Reddout.
But the constant influx of the homeless in the area is problematic for business owner Frank Kendrick, whose property is across the street.
“I came out and there was a guy here. He had his shirt off. He had a water bottle and he was taking a bath right here on our patio where the employees take their lunch breaks,” said Kendrick.
Kendrick said there's been plenty of occasions where he's called the police a couple times a week.
“People defecating on the building, urinating around the building, prostitution, literally acts of prostitution right in conspicuous views of your building. We’ve had women literally like butt naked walking the streets,” Kendrick explained.
The city is spending $80,000 on consultant Florida Housing Coalition to study the homeless population and its impact on public services.
“Unfortunately you’re not going to make homelessness go away,” explained city spokesman Kevin Cook. “This is an issue facing every community in the United States. We’re looking at a better way to manage the homeless situation.”
Kendrick is glad to hear that.
“What my hopes would be is that they would, this consultant rise to 30,000 feet and take a look at geographically… I think one of things is maybe seeing if we can get some of the health service providers, human service providers in some other neighborhoods. Or maybe kind of spread them out instead of being so concentrated in one area,” said Kendrick.
The Parker Street area is also a place where the city has bought land and re-developed this property.
“We’re always looking at ways to enhance our downtown. The corridor through Midtown is really if you will the pathway to downtown so of course we’d like to have new businesses and have the area cleaned up,” Cook explained.
Talbot House leaders said the organization doesn’t have plans to relocate. Its executive director said even if it did, it’d still need to be near downtown due to the close proximity to public transportation and services like the hospital.
“We need to come together as a community. Not as a committee and a consultant but as a community and discuss how do we make housing more affordable. How do we give people a chance with jobs that we wouldn’t take a chance on before because of something in their background?” said Dr. Reddout.
Cook said the consultant will meet with the homeless care providers at the end of August. The city expects the consultant to release a strategic plan by June of 2018.