Does Coral Springs Hate Homeless People?

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Judging by the front page story in this week's edition of "The Our Town News", yes.

On the direct-mail community newspaper's web site, the article about the city's commissioners and residents disdain for the homeless men and women selling The Homeless Voice is featured next to a story about a local boy scout troop.

In the story, Coral Springs Vice Mayor Vince Boccard says the people selling The Homeless Voice look like "a bunch of homeless beggars" and called the paper - which is run out of the Voice Homeless Shelter in Hollywood - "a scam. You never know where the money is going."

Boccard's solution for ridding his fair town of these unpleasant-looking folks? He suggests planting bushes and trees to look at instead, and then citing the homeless folks if they go near the pretty new bushes.

For now, Boccard says citizens should, "let them stand in the hot sun for nothing; then hopefully they'll move on."

Isn't that sweet? Isn't it nice when someone can criticize a homeless person trying to earn money "in the hot sun" and then drive home to his nice suburban house?

I wanted to publish the address of Boccard's house here (it's public record and easy to find), but our editors have decided that if someone were to go to Boccard's home and throw a brick through the window, we would feel bad (if it hurt someone).

Sean Cononie, publisher of The Homeless Voice and director of the shelter, says he is contemplating legal actions against The Our Town News and Boccard. "I really can't believe people would say this," Cononie told The Juice. "We've been here 13 years. Maybe if we go picket in front of his house he'll know we're real and not a scam."

Boccard is not the only person quoted in the first part of the Coral Springs story, under the subtitle "'Get off our streets'." One anonymous "local resident" called The Homeless Voice "a farce" and asked how the city can spend millions on medians, but do nothing about the people selling the homeless newspaper. The story quotes someone named Merle Lynn (who presumably is not homeless) saying: "I used to feel sorry for the people that were hanging out on the corners asking for money." 

Incidentally, this weekend young volunteer journalists attending a conference put on by the Society of Professional Journalists will eat dinner at Cononie's shelter, then help put together a special edition of the homeless paper - the second largest paper of its kind in the country.

Cononie says he has spoken with friends at the National Coalition for the Homeless, which publishes the annual "Meanest Cities" report. It lists the 20 American cities the coalition believes exhibit the most egregious behavior towards homelessness.

"Coral Springs might just end up on that list," Cononie said.

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