Key West Chooses Site For Homeless Shelter

Feb 4, 2015

After months of contentious debate, the Key West City Commission decided 4-3 that the city-owned property formerly used by Easter Seals should be the site of a new homeless shelter.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

After months of contentious debate and a 4-3 vote, the Key West city commission made a decision Tuesday night on a site for a new homeless shelter.

The site chosen was the same one recommended months ago by city staff. Last October, the commission deadlocked 3-3 on a decision to move there and told staff to explore opening a shelter at the city's transportation building on Palm Avenue.

The city agreed in 2011 to move KOTS, the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter, from its location next to the Monroe County Detention Center. The new location, formerly used by Easter Seals, is owned by the city.

Both locations are on College Road on Stock Island but are within the incorporated city limits of Key West.

"We've exhausted other possibilities, and our options were running fewer and fewer," said Commissioner Clayton Lopez, who voted in favor of the Easter Seals site this time. He said he still thought the property should be used for affordable housing or assisted living.

But, he said, "the concerns that anyone would have out there are going to be so much more exaggerated or exacerbated if you bring them into Key West proper because you’re dealing with a much more condensed population."

Residents of the Key West Golf Club, a nearby gated community, objected to the shelter's new location.

Commissioner Teri Johnston, who sponsored the resolution, said the city was not providing luxury accommodations but simply a bed for the night.

"This is cots and stacked bunks and beds on a concrete slab with a roof over it. That’s all that is," she said. "It provides a minimum safe sleeping environment for those people in Key West who are downtrodden. That’s it. No air conditioning."

Commissioner Tony Yaniz, who opposed the site, predicted it would eventually become a 24-hour shelter. And he said the city had not fully looked into all alternatives.

"Before we make a decision, a monumental decision that’s going to affect our citizens for decades to come, let’s make sure we explore all options and let’s make sure we fully vet all sites," he said. "For my two cents worth, we have fallen seriously short of that."