A couple months ago, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler was on the radio one fine Saturday, after spending the morning on his hands and knees along with local volunteers planting gardens of tropical foliage in Stranahan Park.
With Seiler's record of trying to get the homeless to disband from the park, saying they have an adverse effect on local business, one could have surmised that the plants were to hide or replace the people who typically hung out on the grass. Volunteers with Food Not Bombs certainly took it that way, displaying placards saying "People need services, not signs, flowers, and harassment" at an event there last week.
Now, workers have torn the grass out of a large section of the rest of the park, readying it to become a "botanic garden" instead of a grassy lawn. And the company that owns the building across the street says it donated money for the effort, because it's tired of looking at homeless people.
The Sun-Sentinel reports that Ivy Realty, which bought the Wells Fargo tower at Broward and Andrews last year, has donated $25,000 to rip up large portions of the lawn and replace them with plantings, part of a planned $237,000 park rehab that does NOT involve an outdoor grill or dishwashing sinks for Food Not Bombs.
"We have given a lot of thought [to homeless issues]," Ivy Executive VP David Nenner told the paper. "Not just about making the park prettier, but our commitment to community has got to be more. We have talked to the city about what could be done." Aside from paying to replace homeless people with plants, the company is putting someone on the city's homelessness task force.
In our feature story on Food Not Bombs, a homeless man sat on the grass in Stranahan, looked up at the Wells Fargo tower, and called the stop-and-start efforts of that task force to reach an amenable solution to food-sharing "pathetic and ridiculous." Still, for an investment company, money speaks louder than volunteer committee placements. Getting the homeless out of the park is worth $25,000 to the company.
The Women's Club, which has a historic building on the park property, is also happy about the prospect of more people renting their building.
Seiler told the paper that he hoped the homeless people would go find help, for example at the Homeless Assistance Center on Sunrise Boulevard. But reports from people on the ground make it clear that getting long-term help with shelter and food is not as easy as it should be. We talked to one guy last summer who thought the city was building a fence to seal off Stranahan Park. It sounded far-fetched, but the current solution does about the same thing. It looks nicer, though, for those driving by or watching from across the street.
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