For years city officials in Hollywood, Florida, a city just outside of Miami, has been trying to get rid of Homeless Voice Shelter in downtown and they finally got their wish. On Friday morning, shelter owner Sean Cononie, and over a hundred homeless people, boarded buses for a new home in Central Florida after city officials spent nearly five million dollars to get rid of them (video bel0w).
Cononie opened his shelter in the heart of downtown Hollywood in 2002 so that the homeless people in the city would have a safe haven at night after long days spent on the street. Now that is all over because officials in the city couldn’t stand the sight of the poverty-stricken people. The city paid Cononie $4.8 million dollars for his downtown shelter and nine other properties he owned, with the stipulation that he leave town and not return for thirty years. He said he has been exiled from the city:
No doubt, I have been exiled, sex offenders have it better,” Cononie, 50, said. “Hollywood doesn’t want us. They think we destroyed downtown. Every city commissioner should be drunk and happy right now.
He took the money the city paid him for his exile and bought a 125-room, fully furnished Howard-Johnson motel in the central part of the state. Cononie said the new shelter isn’t really a shelter, instead it will be a sliding-scale motel where residents will pay between one penny and $24 a night to stay. Residents will be able to enjoy the motel’s swimming pool, church, laundry room, and recreation center.
Cononie’s various shelters in Southern Florida served nearly 500 homeless a day and served more than 45,000 meals a month. In exchange for a place to sleep and eat, the shelter’s residents sold The Homeless Voice newspaper at intersections around the city. The street newspaper served three purposes: to educate the public on homelessness and poverty issues; provide temporary employment; to raise additional funds for the shelters.
Officials in the city didn’t care that he was helping the city’s most vulnerable residents; they were far more concerned with profits than people:
It is a hallelujah that they’re not going to be in that location right there in the middle of where we’re trying to redevelop,” City Commissioner Patty Asseff said Friday afternoon. “I God bless them. Sean Cononie is dedicated; he does have a passion and compassion when it comes to taking care of their needs.
Can you take a wild guess what party Asseff belongs to? That’s right, she’s a Republican.
It’s not at all surprising that Republicans don’t want to deal with the homeless. There is nothing they hate more than poor people. All of their policies a geared towards punishing the poor for their poverty-breeding policies. This also isn’t the first time members of the GOP have attacked homeless.
In 2014, officials in Sarasota, Florida withdrew support for a homeless shelter in their downtown district because they were afraid homeless people from other areas would flock to the shelter for a place to stay. Seriously. They really said that. After scrapping shelter, they started putting money aside to bus their homeless out of town as well. In 2011, Fort Lauderdale did the same thing. This just something that is done in Florida though, San Francisco sued Nevada in 2013 for giving low-income and homeless hospital patients one-way bus tickets out of town.
Not only have members of the Republican Party literally bussed people out of their cities, they have enacted laws the criminalize people who help the poor. Remember the 90-year-old man who was arrested for feeding the needy? Not to mention the city ordinances that have been enacted all around the country to stop the homeless from panhandling.
The situation in Hollywood is unique though, because the city is paying millions to get rid of these people. Fortunately for indigent in Hollywood, many who are handicapped, they have found a selfless advocate who wants to make their lives a little easier and not harder as these disgusting politicians have set out to do. We definitely need more people like Sean Cononie.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.