‘They urinate on these benches’: St. Augustine shop owners call for more to be done on homelessness

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Video posted to social media Wednesday showed dozens of homeless people on St. George Street in St. Augustine. The video cut off right as one man became angry with the person recording.

A local shop owner who declined to share his name for fear of retaliation told Action News Jax that people have urinated and defecated in the streets.


[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

“The filth, the filth. It’s a health issue as well. They lay out there and they urinate on these benches and everything because they’re so drunk. And then these little kids come along the very next day, they’re crawling around on that very same bench,” he said.

The shop owner said some of the newcomers have been aggressive.

Read: More mental and behavioral health services now available in St. Johns County

“This year’s newer batch is a whole lot different. This is a different animal than we’ve had in the past,” he added.

He says the city needs to step it up.

“The city’s not doing anything. They just turn a blind eye to it. And people like myself and a whole bunch of others have come in and clean up after it every day,” he said.

The St. Augustine Police Department says there has been a notable rise in homelessness since COVID-19. Both the police and the city say it’s not a crime to be homeless, but there is an ordinance barring people from panhandling within 20 feet of any exit or entrance to a business.

Read: Child pulled from pond on Jacksonville’s Westside, is in ‘very critical condition,’ JSO says

The local shop owner who spoke to Action News Jax doesn’t understand why homeless people are in touristy areas such as St. George Street.

“They need to figure out some way of relocating them,” he said.

Click here to learn about the massive increase in people approaching local shelters for help, and what one shelter is doing to make housing more affordable.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.