By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - A proposed homeless tent camp site has members of the local business community upset and concerned.
Leaders of Camp Haven, a local nonprofit group with a mission to build a legal and safe temporary housing community for some of the homeless in Indian River County, recently announced their excitement over selecting a location for the soft-shelter camp site, but not everyone is thrilled about it.
Joe Krauss, co-owner of J&J Autoworks, said he and other businesses in the area close to the proposed site, are upset they were not asked early on their opinion of bringing temporary housing to their neighborhood.
J&J Auto Works is located at 550 Second St. Southwest in Vero Beach in the industrial park. The proposed 7-acre tent camp site border is near the end of that street.
"They never did meet with us ahead of time like they said they were going to. We've worked hard to get where we are and it's a family owned business. This is our dream building," Mr. Krauss said.
Should the tent camp location be approved by county commissioners and if the land use designation is changed, Mr. Krauss is very concerned that it will negatively affect his property values. Other business owners are renting space in the industrial park, including a youth baseball camp and a marble cutting company.
"I'm tired of hearing only one side of the story," Mr. Krauss said.
Mr. Krauss said it is very difficult in these economic times to rent the space and news of an adjacent tent camp for the homeless will just make it harder.
"Everyone is struggling, and if this goes through, it'll just be another nail in the coffin," Mr. Krauss said.
Mr. Krauss said he is not unfeeling to the plight of the homeless in the area, in fact, he is very much aware that there are homeless camping out in the wooded areas near him.
The Camp Haven site will not be open to all homeless. Each resident will have to fill out a lengthy application, proving their residency in Indian River County, undergo a background check, be drug and alcohol-free and be legal adults with no dependent children, Camp Haven leaders said.
Camp Haven organizers may not want to admit it, but many, many of the homeless in the county have drug and alcohol issues, Mr. Krauss said.
"What's going to happen to them? They don't fit the criteria to get into the camp, so they're just going to move into another part of the woods," he said.
Mr. Krauss said he and other business owners are in a catch-22 situation. They want to have successful businesses, but when they voice opposition to a site to help the homeless, they sound like the bad guys.
"I have a heart, too," Mr. Krauss said.
Zoning approval for the property is expected to take six to eight months.