Coronavirus: South Florida city puts up homeless in hotel -- in another town

Coronavirus: South Florida city puts up homeless in hotel in another town

Two neighboring cities in South Florida are arguing over where to relocate homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fort Lauderdale city officials searched for places and settled on two hotels. One of them, however, happened to be in Dania Beach -- and that town’s officials are not happy, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

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Fort Lauderdale officials are claiming they did not know that the Rodeway Inn & Suites hotel was not located within its city limits.

“It was an honest mistake,” Rob Hernandez, Fort Lauderdale’s deputy city manager, told the Sun-Sentinel. “We really thought it was in the city limits.”

Dania Beach officials are skeptical.

“If we did the same to Fort Lauderdale, they would be up in arms,” Dania Beach Mayor Lori Lewellen told the newspaper. “I’m not trying to start a war with Fort Lauderdale. But Fort Lauderdale has a lot more hotels than we do. It’s wrong. Pick up the phone and contact us.”

Dozens of homeless people from Fort Lauderdale checked into 72 rooms at the Rodeway Inn on May 8 for a 30-day stay, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

After complaints were received by Dania Beach police, city officials began to investigate and learned about the arrangement Fort Lauderdale made with the hotel, Dania Beach City Manager Ana Garcia told the newspaper.

“We only found out because we had to respond to (police) calls,” Garcia said.

Homeless people causing trouble were ejected from the hotel, and the city of Fort Lauderdale honored a request by Dania Beach police to use a private security firm to monitor the hotel, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Izzy Fintz, vice president of hospitality at the Rodeway Inn, said Dania Beach officials wanted the hotel to scrap its contract with Fort Lauderdale.

“(The city attorney) wanted the homeless people removed and off our property within 48 hours,” Fintz told the Sun-Sentinel. “All we want to do is help these people. And we are becoming a political pawn. We are being put in the middle.”

When the homeless leave the hotel, Fort Lauderdale city officials said they will find another place for them to stay.

“We’ll be trying to place them into a shelter,” Hernandez told the Sun-Sentinel. “That’s the game plan, to make sure they don’t go back out on the street.”

Officials in Fort Lauderdale and Dania Beach are at odds over where to relocate homeless people.
Officials in Fort Lauderdale and Dania Beach are at odds over where to relocate homeless people. (John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)