Florida Keys

Key West’s homeless shelter to stay put on county property

Key West has struck a deal with Monroe County to keep the city’s emergency homeless shelter in place.

County leaders had given the city a one-year deadline last July to relocate the shelter from county to city property. The new deadline was an extension from the year before.

“Two years ago, they did draw the line in the sand and we were told to find a permanent solution” to the homeless shelter, said City Manager Greg Veliz

“It was not without a lot of teeth-gnashing and wrangling to get to this point,” Veliz said.

The Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter, 5537 College Rd. next door to the county jail and sheriff’s headquarters, was hastily built in 2004 in Key West as people were camping out on public land.

KOTS shelters about 100 people each night.

Instead of moving KOTS, the city on Tuesday, in a 6-0 vote, agreed to take over responsibility for the property off College Road and give the county permission to build workforce housing for the sheriff’s office on a 1.1-acre site downtown at 250 Trumbo Rd.

County commissioners have the same item on the agenda for their Wednesday meeting.

“All around, this is very good,” City Commissioner Sam Kaufman said. “It’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned. It’s affordable housing being built by the sheriff and we have a long-term place for our emergency homeless shelter. All sides seem to win.”

The Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter takes in about 100 people per night at 5537 College Road. John Teets

Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay wants to build at least 30 units of workforce housing for his employees on Trumbo Road.

“We transfer the property to the sheriff’s office,” said City Attorney Shawn Smith. “There is no impediment to us deeding the Trumbo Road portion to the county.”

Meanwhile, the agreement requires Key West to build a new homeless shelter at the existing site.

But KOTS will be moved away from the rest of the neighborhood.

“We’ve moved the footprint of the property deeper into the mangroves, farther away from the residents,” Veliz said. “It will increase in size.”

The Trumbo Road is a grassy lot that has been used as a dog park for the past three years and sits next to the luxury Key West Steamplant condos.

City leaders don’t expect any protest from dog park users.

“From the day that the dog park went in, it was always the understanding for people that take their dogs there that eventually the city was going to use the property for housing,” said City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley.

Mayor Teri Johnston was absent Tuesday.