Photo By Donna Reeves Summer 2013

Written By Donna Reeves
Key West paradise offers sun, sand and an elaborate night life to all who seek it. Thousands arrive here every year to escape the cold and bask in the tropical sun. Not everyone will be staying in the posh hotels and homes that line the sun baked streets, however.Riches and oppression bask together in the lavish Key West atmosphere. Many are homeless, disadvantaged, impoverished and disillusioned. The dream of living, working and becoming a part of the island scene is often charred by the burning sun or washed away with the tide.

Homeless sleeping on the beaches is not an unfamiliar scene in Key West. I was out for a morning bike ride last week and arrived early at the beach to find sleeping homeless not yet up with the sun. It is not as intimidating as one might imagine. It is just terribly sad.

Photo by Donna Reeves
Tourist and locals seem not to mind the interaction. That is good I suppose. The beaches belong to all of us. The segregation of classes is obvious but all go about their daily business of beaching and sunbathing. Some have spent thousands to play here and others lost everything and came to sleep on the beaches instead of in a colder climate. Part of my research here will include interviewing some members of the homeless population, vacationers and locals.

The homeless resources are nearly as abundant in Key West as are the hotels and taxi services. Supply and demand drives them all. I am inclined to believe that some of the homeless come here for the food and digs. I don’t mean that in a bad way. We are assigned as human beings to help one another. I hope they find the best of every thing. It just appears that because of the dramatic number of homeless in Key West, the city and outreach sources have worked at a more efficient level than in some other cities. I will investigate that theory in my Key West research. The homeless outreach centers are working long hours to find ways to accommodate and mobilize the homeless.

When I say mobilize, I do not mean they are working to ship them out. NO NO. There is one island outreach center here that provides bus tickets to people who have opportunities for jobs and a better life in another place. But they adhere to very strict guidelines. They are not working to send these folks from one bad situation to another. They cannot be leaving with the promise of another homeless shelter to move to. They must have hope for work and a  person on the receiving end of the bus line who will agree to take responsibility for them. If these people don’t have a plan to improve or a better place to go they are encouraged to just work things out here utilizing the available resources. The mobilization means that the Key West helping sources are working to improve the lives of the Key West homeless by meeting their needs and finding ways to improve their employ ability and sustainability.

There are new plans on the horizon for the Key West sun baked homeless. A new homeless shelter is being built and I hope to take a tour in the next few weeks. My interview with directors of the outreach facilities begin tomorrow and I am hopeful of the outcomes. Sleep well and dream of many solutions.-Donna

  1. gregg bunton says:

    great artical, looking foreward to more

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