Undercurrents

Here's a little something that local officials "forgot" to tell homeless people and their advocates when they recently closed Fort Lauderdale's Tent City and prodded the residents to move into the new Homeless Assistance Center on Sunrise.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department last week told us they expected to get the names of everyone living in the shelter from county officials, and the cops would then check to see if any of the homeless have outstanding arrest warrants. Those who have warrants for forcible felonies will be cuffed and transported to jail, says Robert Pusins, the downtown district police commander. Interesting take on a sting: Lure them in with the promise of kindness, and then spring the trap. For those with warrants for less serious felonies and misdemeanors, the police will decide what to do on a case-by-case basis. At Tent City, there was no routine warrant check.

The police, of course, say this policy is necessary to protect the safety of residents and staff at the shelter. But the homeless are supposed to go to the center for help, not handcuffs. "You can't go into treatment to escape prosecution for past crimes," Pusins says.

The police commander claims he previously cleared this with county and shelter officials and with leaders of the Broward Coalition For the Homeless. But it was news to them when New Times called for comment. "You're telling me something I don't think we're aware of," said Ezra Krieg, the center's resource development director, who didn't sound happy. Broward County officials are now saying they'll examine the police department's plan before coming up with a protocol.

Homeless people and their advocates say the cops are crazy to think people will go to the shelter knowing that they could get busted. Word on the street will spread fast, and people will stay away in droves, says Ed Cline, a resident of the center.

"That kind of sucks," said a surprised Laura Carey, executive director of the Broward Coalition For the Homeless. "I'd hate to see people get carted away to jail when they go to get help."

Forget paying $350 just to get into the gala opening of the "Herb Ritts: Work" exhibition at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. Who needs to see some second-string celebrities and the country club set mingling when there are more exciting events in store?

Now for $342 less you can see the exciting full-frontal nudes and handsome gay men embracing at the usually staid museum during the next three months. Besides stark photos of Africa and revealing portraits of celebs, Ritts is known for being openly gay and dealing with it in his photos. Beyond presenting risky subject matter, the museum is also doing some interesting outreach work, according to the Museum's Ginger Gregg, to get more than the upper-crust contributors involved in cutting-edge art.

For instance, one can attend the upcoming lecture "Keith Haring and a Queer Postmodernism" by Queer Nation cofounder Jonathan Katz on April 2. Club kids can view the Ritts exhibit on March 12 and head over to a museum-sponsored party at the Chili Pepper. And you slacker students can get into the exhibit for free on the second Tuesday of every month.

The sedate and dignified art space should open up even more when a new gallery premieres in the fall with a focus on contemporary and modern art in alternative media, such as computer art.

-- as told to Tom Walsh

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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