After the city approved the first round of funding for homelessness reduction initiatives, time is running out to relocate approximately 91 people currently living under the Interstate 110 overpass.
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said organizations working to relocate people currently camping under the Interstate Overpass will have until early January before the city is forced to step in to evict anyone who refuses to leave.
Although operated as an urban park, the land under the freeway is technically owned by the Florida Department of Transportation.
Robinson said Monday that the FDOT told his administration that the camp was a violation of state law and wanted the property cleared by January.
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Robinson did not rule out using the police to clean up the camp.
“We’ll have to figure out what to do,” Robinson said. “But there is already a state law on the books that the DOT informed us about.”
Last week, City Council approved the creation of a $180,000 fund for organizations to submit requests for emergency hotel placements and to allocate $1.3 million to three nonprofits charity that will use the funds to create 100 new beds in homeless shelters, as well as provide other services to the homeless population.
Robinson said Monday the city had taken a head count under the bridge and believed there were at least 101 tents occupied by 91 people residing under the freeway.
The city council has had a moratorium in place since last year to prevent the eviction of anyone below the bridge.
Although FDOT owns the property, the city and county have worked in recent years to improve Hollice T. Williams Park.
Plans for the park are expected to be completed in May 2022, according to county spokesperson Andie Gibson.
Once the plans are completed, the project can be tendered for construction.
Gibson said the city of Pensacola will oversee construction of the project.
Robinson said the funding passed by the city council creates the resources to help everyone under the park, if they’re willing to accept help.
“I think they’ll have a certain percentage that will go, and they’ll have a certain percentage that’s not what they want to do,” Robinson said. “That’s fine. They don’t have to go and do that, but if they have to be in that community, they have to go (to the shelters, or) they can go to another community. That’s what I’ve been saying for a long time, if we don’t have a proper process, then we become a community (ie the) path of least resistance, which ends where we are.
Robinson said he believed anyone willing to accept help could be helped and relocated by mid-January, although he said notices would be posted at the property on January 1.
“It’s owned by FDOT,” Robinson said. “They made it clear that they were going to put up signs at the start of the year.”
Jim Little can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 850-208-9827.