Clearwater welds bathrooms shut at Crest Lake Park and cuts electricity in downtown parks

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Crest Lake Park in Clearwater is known to be a place where homeless people like to frequent.  But due to ongoing loitering and what the city says is a pattern of unacceptable behavior, the restrooms at the park have been welded shut.

"This community, we are concerned about our transient homeless presence on the street. We're concerned about those people," said Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne.

According to Horne, the city wants to eliminate those things that have become a 'public enabler' for homeless people. 

Along with closing the restrooms at the park, the city cut off electricity to the outlets at Station Square Park downtown; as well as turning off the power at Coachman Park.  City staffers took photos of homeless people charging mobile devices at Station Square Park.    

"We really want to get them into services where they can address their food needs, shelter needs, training needs and  medical needs.  Because what we are absolutely convinced is that they can't find those services on the street," explained Horne.

Horne insists that services are available and that places like the Pinellas Safe Harbor, which Clearwater helps to fund are more appropriate places to stay than in parks. Homeless man Gregory Steiner isn't buying it.

"They're trying to make it as inconvenient as possible to get you out of town," remarked Steiner.   

People who aren't homeless that have come to enjoy Crest Lake Park, say that welding the bathroom doors shut is a little extreme.

"It's kind of ridiculous to be very honest with you," said Rochel Lewis of Clearwater who was at the park with kids.

Brian Hutchinson takes his kids for a walk in the stroller several times a week in the park.

"It makes it more difficult for my child, who is potty training.  It makes me wonder where these homeless people are using the bathroom," said Hutchinson.

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