Palm Beach County wants state help with homelessness, opioid epidemic


Santa Claus has come and gone, but Palm Beach County officials made a list, checked it twice and are hoping the state government will determine its priorities aren’t naughty but nice.

Certainly, those priorities and wish list items aren’t cheap: Commissioners and legislators from the county met at the Palm Beach County Convention Center Wednesday to go over the fine points of a $47 million wish list that includes money for beach restoration, Loxahatchee River preservation and a variety of smaller-scale projects.

In addition to requests for specific projects, commissioners and area legislators agreed on a series of policy areas where they want the state to take action.

That includes the exploding opioid epidemic and the proliferation of unregulated treatment facilities and sober homes. The Palm Beach Post has written extensively on both topics. Elected officials noted The Post’s coverage and called on the state to step in with help.

Homelessness in the county and the paucity of affordable housing were major areas of focus for commissioners and legislators Wednesday.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and other officials have been working to assist some 70 households in Belle Glade that were displaced last month when the buildings where they lived were condemned.

“I’m surprised anybody was living in them,” said McKinlay, whose district includes the Glades.

The county does not have a place to provide long-term housing for those displaced by condemnation and has long pushed for more beds for its homeless population.

“The county is experiencing a growing problem with homeless students, seniors and veterans,” according to a county report commissioners and legislators reviewed Wednesday. “For example, there are approximately 3,200 homeless students in PBC public schools, with 3,000 homeless Palm Beach State College students living in their cars.”

The county expects to get $810 million over the next decade through the penny-on-the-dollar increase in the sales tax that went into effect Sunday. Some $31 million of that money is slated for affordable housing and efforts to combat homelessness.

If the state passes legislation expanding gaming in Florida, the county wants some portion of that revenue set aside for homeless services.

The county also would back an expansion of taxing authority to allow local governments to seek voter approval for a sales tax increase that would be used to pay for homeless services.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the problem of homelessness “is one that is pressing, more than ever.”

“We don’t have the housing to cycle them through,” she said. “This is not just a government responsibility. It’s a community responsibility.”

Other issues included the following:

Clerk fees: With the Clerk and Comptroller’s Office of Palm Beach County under financial strain, the county wants to see the $65 mandatory fee applied to civil cases as they are in criminal cases.

Adults With Disabilities: The county wants the Legislature to restore statewide money for the Adults with Disabilities Program back to $10 million. It was cut to $750,000, and five area agencies — Palm Beach Habilitation Center, Boca Raton Habilitation Center, Seagull Services, ARC of Palm Beach County and Jeff Industries — lost a combined $709,481.

The loss of that money cost some staff members their jobs. Some disabled residents also lost jobs and training opportunities, according to information compiled by the county.

Uber, taxies: Legislators failed last year to come up with a uniform statewide policy regulating taxi companies and firms like Lyft and Uber, and county officials said they want the state to try again.

The 2017 legislative session convenes in Tallahassee on March 7, but drafts of general bills and joint resolutions must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Jan. 27.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

NEW: Fort Pierce man dies in drive-by shooting in Vero Beach-area neighborhood
NEW: Fort Pierce man dies in drive-by shooting in Vero Beach-area neighborhood

A man from Fort Pierce died in a drive by shooting near Vero Beach on Friday afternoon, according to Indian River County Sheriff’s Office deputies.  Christard Hicks, 19, suffered a gunshot wound and died about 40 minutes after he arrived to a local hospital, deputies said.  Witnesses told deputies that they saw a black Chrysler sedan...
NEW: American Airlines plane with hydraulic fluid leak safely lands at PBIA
NEW: American Airlines plane with hydraulic fluid leak safely lands at PBIA

An American Airlines plane flying from Charlotte, N.C., to Palm Beach International Airport developed a hydraulic leak on Saturday afternoon.  Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews responded to the airport after the plane landed safely at the gate at about 1:07 p.m, according to Capt. Albert Borroto.  The plane  -- which was scheduled...
NEW: Mother of Wellington boy killed in dirt bike accident files wrongful death lawsuit 
NEW: Mother of Wellington boy killed in dirt bike accident files wrongful death lawsuit 

A woman in West Palm Beach whose 13-year-old son died in a dirt bike accident a year ago is suing the mother of her late son’s friend for $15,000.  On April 23, 2017, Jonathan Gonzalez and his friend were thrown off a dirt bike into a canal on Oakberry Circle and Oak Hamlet Lane, just north of Forest Hill Boulevard. Gonzalez died...
NEW: Arrest in Boynton ‘road rage’ incident where woman was run over by car
NEW: Arrest in Boynton ‘road rage’ incident where woman was run over by car

Florida Highway Patrol officers arrested a woman late Friday who they say purposely hit a woman with her car earlier this week on the southbound Interstate 95 ramp to Gateway Boulevard.  LiShell Jacobs, 30, faces charges of driving with a suspended license causing serious death or injury, and aggravated battery. She was ordered by Judge Frank...
NYC postal worker arrested after police find 17,000 pieces of undelivered mail
NYC postal worker arrested after police find 17,000 pieces of undelivered mail

A New York City postal worker was arrested Thursday after 17,000 pieces of undelivered mail were found in his car, apartment and locker, authorities said. Aleksey Germash, who has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 16 years, possessed undelivered mail since 2005, WPIX reported. He told investigators he held onto the mail because...
More Stories