July 7, 2022

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Business Woman

Locals, business owners concerned over St. Augustine’s rising homeless population

Some nearby store house owners in St. Augustine fear homelessness is hurting their firms.

Movie posted to Facebook Wednesday reveals individuals lining St. George Avenue — a primary drag in the town that attracts heaps of tourists.

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Action News Jax asked the city and its police department about what’s being done.

The city says it’s not a crime to be homeless, but there is an ordinance barring anyone from panhandling within 20 feet of any entrance or exit of a business.

Read: ‘They urinate on these benches’: St. Augustine shop owners call for more to be done on homelessness

Business owners and locals say more needs to be done.

“There are a lot more homeless people here than I remember. I haven’t been here in a year or so and I grew up in this area, and I can’t believe the number of homeless,” one woman who wanted to stay anonymous said.

She hadn’t been to St. Augustine in at least a year and said the city today looks nothing like how she remembers it growing up.

“I think there should be help for these people a lot of them look like they’re vets,” she said.

She feels for those living on the streets and says the city needs to find solutions.

Read: More mental and behavioral health services now available in St. Johns County

The St. Francis shelter reports it has seen a recent increase in those it’s been helping, but couldn’t share how many people are staying there.

Alpha Omega Miracle Home, a shelter for senior women and women with children, says it’s recently received a large volume of calls for help.

The organization says Governor DeSantis’ recent approval of a general appropriations act (HB 5001) will provide $3.5 million to build a new campus that will house over 100 more women and build 12 additional affordable housing units.

A city spokesperson says police “enforce,” but added that there’s “not a whole lot to enforce.” The city acknowledged “they have every right to be there,” however they cannot panhandle within 20 feet of any entrance or exit of a business.

Read: Child pulled from pond on Jacksonville’s Westside, is in ‘very critical condition,’ JSO says

St. Augustine Police Department says they have outreach officers that help those who are homeless, but that they “can only do so much” when it comes to people wanting help.

“Of course it’s sad, it’s depressing,” the woman Action News Jax spoke with said.

The police department says there has been a notable rise in homelessness — especially since COVID-19.

According to the city’s website, the St. Augustine Police Department pumped in $265,000 dollars for two additional patrol officers, beds at St. Francis House and a family reunification program.

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