HOLLYWOOD – Prayers and supplications did not dominate Monday at a special magistrate’s decision to determine the fate of a local kitchen in Hollywood, whose patrons littered the streets with garbage and human waste.
The South Broward Jubilee Center at 2020 Scott St., where meals have been served to the homeless for nearly two decades, has been ordered to close as of April 14.
Michael Garcia, the attorney representing Jubilee, said he planned to appeal to Special Magistrate Tom Ansbro and asked that the center remain open until the case could be decided by a higher court.
Ansbro refused the request.
“The goals are wonderful,” he said of the church officials and volunteers who run the site. “But they don’t do it right, and they haven’t done it for a while. I believe the model failed. It must be closed. Its not working. This can’t go on.”
Over the past few years, the Jubilee Center has found itself in the crosshairs of city officials, thousands in fines.
The final hearing was held in front of a packed house at Hollywood City Hall, with more than a dozen police officers guarding the crowd to observe order in the event.
Towards the end of the six-hour hearing, one man was escorted out of the meeting by the police after two outbursts, demanding that the soup kitchen be closed for attracting street people who had no respect for the neighborhood.
The building at 2020 Scott St. sits on the same block as Broward Outreach, the county’s refugee and homeless shelter that residents and neighboring businesses say has been a good neighbor.
Four Episcopal churches, three in Hollywood and one in Hallandale Beach, own and run a Jubilee center and soup kitchen with the help of volunteers.
Many of the church members and volunteers filled the committee room seats Monday, specifically for the support center and the vulnerable population it serves. Some have signed up to speak, pleading with the police to keep the center open so it can do good work.
But their pleas were no match for Hollywood’s legal team and six witnesses were called to testify, including a veteran police officer who is the homeless coordinator of the department, several code enforcement officers and the city’s prevention officer.
They show images that were hard to forget. Rodent drops that showed rat infestation and dead rats in the traps; exposed electrical wires could spark a fire; the alleys and streets were filled with litter and carts; homeless people sleeping on the beds or sitting in the alleys and swales.
Garcia, Jubilee’s attorney, cross-examined both states as a witness, asking why Jubilee was responsible for the patron after they left the center.
Nothing in the city code requires police if patrons hang around afterward, Garcia said. Even the police cannot arrest if they do not commit a crime.
“Nowhere in the code does it say that the owner is the patron once they leave the property,” Garcia said. “Hold on, it’s a stretch. It’s straight.”
He was also asked why the city would bring about the ancient problems that had already been established.
State’s Attorney Doug Gonzales argues that both past code violations are relevant as well as the current violations.
“For,” said he, “the warning of the night is to the detriment of the public.” This is history and a consistent pattern. That’s what got us here.
In the past five years, police have been called to the Jubilee Center 1,200 times, according to department records. In 2020, the police were called to the center 331 times – the most calls going to 2018. In the first three months of this year, they were called 70 times.
Most of the calls are related to fights, people laying waste on the roads and debris and garbage being left outside.
Officer Dwayne Chung, coordinator of the homeless department, spent many days at Jubilee.
He told of walking over a pile of urine and into the wilderness of human decline. Heroin addicts are shooting up and leaving needles all over the streets. A business owner who calls him crying because he can’t get through the door of the business is a homeless person camping outside.
Garcia asked how Chung knew Jubilee patrons were the ones causing the problems.
“The Broward Outreach Center is under good leadership,” Chung said. We don’t have the same issues with the Outreach Center that we have with Jubilee.
City crews were sent out at least four times to clean up after neighbors were called to complain, a code enforcement officer told police. On the 16th of March, the patrons of the Jubilee saw them coming and dragging the beds, blankets, and other things inside the center so that they could not be lifted and brought down.
Garcia called three witnesses who served on the jubilee board.
All three testified that they and their workers were there to clean the streets on weekdays.
“We don’t want to be a bad neighbor,” said Rev. Debra McLaughlin, chair of the center board. “We are going out of our way to clean up the street.”
Some patrons who failed to follow the rules were banned from the center for anywhere from one day to one month, he said.
“We hate to always judge people,” he said. “Everyone deserves a second chance.”
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After the testimony, Ansbro announced that 30 people had signed up to speak.
Some have warned that closing the Jubilee Center will not deprive Hollywood of its homeless. But he wants to starve more in the streets.
Homeowner Ed Walker urged the city to close the center.
“People use my floor as a bathroom,” he said. “I’m down to earth. I live in three houses. It used to be a nice neighborhood. It needs to change. My people are up and down the street shouting obscenities. They’re fighting on the corner constantly. Garbage, that’s another thing. It is. There’s no time. They didn’t pick it up. They didn’t they do what they say they will do. My wife is afraid to leave the house. So my wife is my neighbor’s.
Barbara Marks, a Hollywood property owner who owns a rental home on Scott Street, argued that something must be done.
“Our neighborhood looks bad, and we need to do something about it,” he said. “People failing in the alley create a safety issue. I think we need to clean up the neighborhood.”
Susannah Bryan can be reached email@example.com or Twitter @Susannah_Bryan