Fort Lauderdale police give homeless 24 hours to clear belongings from Stranahan Park
Police gave notice, saying trash bags belonging to homeless will be removed
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – From a sweatshirt, backpack, toiletries to and other essentials, George Fereleto's life is stuffed into garbage bags.
"For the most part, it's all bagged up," Fereleto, who is homeless said. "I got bag upon bag upon bag, trying to keep it all dry."
Fereleto has been homeless for three years and says that his garbage bags contain "everything I got left in the world."
And he's not alone.
Dozens of people near Stranahan Park in Fort Lauderdale, a known gathering spot for the homeless, have similar stories. Now those people say they're being targeted by police in order to curb complaints from surrounding businesses.
"They walked around and started looking at all the trash bags, then they started putting tags on them and spraying them with spray paint," Nathaniel McBride, who is homeless, said of police.
More than two dozen bags were marked with warning stickers Monday, and now their owners have 24 hours to remove their property from the park or it will be confiscated.
"Take my whole life -- that's all I got," McBride said.
Homeless advocates, including Jeff Weinberger, are not happy with the actions of the Fort Lauderdale police. They believe there has to be a better way.
"We need to treat homeless people with respect," Weinberger, a founder of October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness, said. "Other cities have been able to provide public storage space for homeless persons."
On Tuesday, police were back in the park, but they left the garbage bags alone.
However, the department said that if police do remove bags from the park they will be enforcing a city ordinance for outdoor storage on public property.
"The Fort Lauderdale Police Department has in fact been in the mentioned area for the last few weeks making contact with individuals educating them of the ordinance for Outdoor Storage on Public Property," Detective Tracy Figone said in a statement. "Unattended property that has been located in this area, by our officers, have been red tagged (warning of removal if not done so within 24 [hours]). It is the goal of The Fort Lauderdale Police Department to maintain and ensure a level of quality of life that is expected and deserved by all of our residence and visitors."
Fereleto feels that idea should include him since he can't part with his items and carries them with him for the time being.
"It has to go with me because if it doesn't go with me, it might not be here," he said.
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