WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- West Palm Beach business owners are fed up with what they're describing as a more aggressive homeless population.
"The other morning a gentleman came into the restaurant, The Dispensary that I own with my partner Christian," explained Gregory Galgano. "He was demanding free coffee and free food and I had to politely ask him to leave and he got rather upset."
"5:30 in the morning when we open up," Platt says. "On a regular basis we have one or two people who will actually stand in front of car doors and not let our members out to come into the gym until they give them money."
Both Galgano and Platt feel the homeless population downtown is becoming more aggressive and say it's negatively affecting their business.
"I had a member I lost," Platt says. "She said I'm not interested in coming to a place that is a homeless shelter by day and Bourbon Street by night."
Galgano says downtown is losing local tourists to other parts of the county. "People from Jupiter or from Boca don't want to come down her because of the vagrant population. It upsets me because I know my businesses are suffering as a result of that."
The aggressive homeless population is a problem both say the city should be addressing.
"Go to Palm Beach you don't see this problem," says Platt. "Go to Atlantic Avenue you don't see this problem. They're just more aggressive. This street [Clematis Street] needs more of a police presence because everybody knows the yellow shirt guys can't do anything and the homeless that are here every day see it."
Galganos says the city should see what other towns are doing to address the homeless. "Boca for example, Mizner, there's no homeless population there. Perhaps maybe we can mirror whatever it is that they're doing because obviously they're doing something properly."
West Palm Beach City Administrator Jeff Green says the issue is a challenge. "People have a right to live their lives," Green explained. "We can't arrest people because they are poor or homeless.
Green says the city is working with various agencies for a community outreach approach.
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