West Palm Beach using 'Baby Shark' to repel homeless people

City plays the song on a loop overnight in the hopes of keeping a venue clear

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida city has come up with a novel, if not altogether humane, way of dealing with the city’s homeless population: children’s music.

West Palm Beach is playing insufferable tunes like “Baby Shark” on a loop overnight to repel homeless people camped outside the Lake Pavilion.

Why? Well, for one, the city venue makes roughly $240,000 a year through events, parks and recreation director Leah Rockwell told The Palm Beach Post.

"People are paying a lot of money to use the facility -- thousands of dollars," Rockwell told the newspaper. "We want to make sure people paying this money had a facility that was clean and open."

Rockwell did not return multiple messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Instead, she forwarded a News4Jax email to a city spokesperson, who characterized the tactic as a "temporary measure" that is designed to "discourage congregating and, if appropriate, to encourage people to seek safer, more appropriate shelter through the many resources that are available."

The spokesperson said the city has seen results after experimenting with the music for about two weeks. The city’s also exploring the option of imposing fixed hours at the venue.

An employee for an organization that assists homeless people in Palm Beach County did not wish to comment on the record for this story.

The employee, who noted a scarcity of overnight shelters in the area, expressed doubts about whether weaponizing music against homeless people was an effective and appropriate response to the issue. 

According to an annual head count recorded in January 2018, West Palm Beach is home to roughly 426 unsheltered residents, a bit fewer than the 483 unsheltered persons living in Jacksonville.

Despite similarly sized homeless populations, it’s hard to picture Jacksonville ever turning loud speakers and unbearable, albeit catchy, music against its most vulnerable residents.

"I would say it is not in the best interest of any city to make their public places so uncomfortable that nobody wants to go there," said Dawn Gilman, chief executive officer for Changing Homelessness, a not-for-profit organization working to end homelessness in Jacksonville.

Gilman said the unorthodox approach in West Palm Beach, though interesting, seems like officials are putting a temporary bandage on a problem that requires a long-term solution. In other words, time and resources

"There is only one known cure for homelessness," she said. “And that’s a home."

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