Historic City News was on the scene Friday morning about 7:30 a.m. as police removed vagrants sleeping around the public market building in the Plaza de la Constitucion.
According to St. Augustine City Attorney Ron Brown, the market building is closed from 2:00 a.m. until it re-opens at 6:00 a.m. Brown says that the police can not remove vagrants who sleep in the market unless the City has some place to relocate them. What that means is that unless St. Francis House has vacant beds and unless the vagrants are observed committing some crime, the police are likely to leave them alone.
Friday morning, however, officers in two police patrol vehicles removed anyone sleeping in the market.
City parks and recreation employees were canvassing the market building, clearing out garbage and cleaning up the surrounding area. Several garbage bags of litter had already been collected in the short time a reporter was there.
According to the City Department of Public Affairs, the City of St. Augustine is trying to protect and preserve the quality and cultural ambiance of the historical sections of the downtown area.
Two weeks ago, Historic City News reported that a number of homeless people were awakened to the sounds of heavy equipment and city workers removing the shrubs around the perimeter of the market building.
The city has implemented a lottery that assigns twelve spaces in one-month intervals within the market building. The spaces are to be used by approved vendors as well as street performers and visual artists.
As the city prepares the market building to accommodate the new tenants who pay $75 a month to legally display and sell their wares, there will be one less place for vagrants to sleep.
Some people who live and work around the public market say that it is long overdue.
Photo credit: © 2009 Historic City News staff photographs