JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- It has been more than two years since Jacksonville Beach city leaders have discussed a way to deal with the area's vagrant problem.
"There may not be a total solution," says newly elected Mayor Charlie Latham, "but I'm committing to finding some help. It's time."
While services to help the homeless are available, no overnight shelter exists in the area to house the estimated 276 homeless.
Kyle Castleberry is one of them. After 20 years battling addiction, Castleberry found himself wanting to get clean, but without a place to stay.
"I'm lost in life right now," he told Action News, "but the Mission House has helped me get my papers in order, save some money to buy tree-trimming equipment and I'm trying to start my own business. I'm trying and I'm hopeful."
Castleberry is not like some others, however.
"It's a never-ending circle with some of these guys. They go to jail, they get out, they get drunk, they go to jail, they get out, they get drunk, and I feel for them because I lived that life for so long."
Latham calls them vagrants - a group of homeless that often chooses the lifestyle. Latham says they panhandle tourists for money and are responsible for 20 percent of all crimes in the area, costing the Jacksonville Beach Police Department $14,000 to process in 2012.
Latham says a primary concern of residents during his campaign was the increasing burden vagrants are causing the community, so on Thursday he held the first in a series of workshops to hear their concerns.
During the meeting groups like BEAM, Mission House, Sulzbacher Center, Jacksonville Beach Chamber of Commerce and Police Chief Patrick Dooley spoke about their ideas and took questions from concerned neighbors.
Although no specific actions were proposed, Latham says he is encouraged by the more than 100 people in attendance at the more than two-hour meeting.
"If anyone had the answer as to what can be done, I'd say they'd be really rich," said Latham, "but this was our first look as a community. Now we need to take time and look at what options are available, what can we do as a city, and what can we communicate to the organizations that are prepared to help better than we are."
Latham says a second workshop is in the works, but a specific date has not yet been set.