OCEAN CITY – The issue of the homeless sleeping at the Caroline Street Comfort Station and in others areas of the Boardwalk surfaced this week and at least one elected official thinks a city law may need to be tweaked to address the recent trend.
During Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council meeting, Council Secretary Mary Knight asked the Police Commission to look into establishing an ordinance that would forbid sleeping on the benches on the Boardwalk in addition to the current one prohibiting sleeping on the beach.
“I have noticed recently on the Boardwalk in the early hours around 6 a.m. there has been a lot more folks sleeping on benches. I know we have an ordinance in place that you’re not allowed to sleep overnight on the beach. I would really hope that during the next meeting you could look at also having an ordinance that would include not being allowed to sleep on a bench, because it is kind of disruptive being in front of the rest station, and it is just something that I don’t think Ocean City really would want seen up there,” Knight said.
Ocean City property owner Diane Groves contacted The Dispatch on the same matter last weekend. Groves owns a penthouse unit atop the Belmont Towers overlooking the Boardwalk in the vicinity of the new Caroline Street Comfort Station.
According to Groves, there is a group of about eight homeless people who congregate at the Caroline Street Comfort Station who display erratic behavior due to being intoxicated.
“I can observe them, and when I have my windows I can hear them down there” she said. “The police can’t catch them drinking outside because they go into the bathroom to drink, and nobody wants to use the bathrooms because they are all right there hanging out at the door. It has been awful.”
Groves furthered they have been asked by police to not sleep on the concrete pad adjacent to the Boardwalk so they are now sleeping on the benches and leave their belongings in the area.
“I have always come to Ocean City. It is one of my favorite places. That is why I bought the penthouse but I just can’t believe that the homeless can stay there 24/7. That is their home, and they ask people for cigarettes and money,” she said. “Ocean City does such a good job with everything else I don’t know why they can’t clean this up.”
Groves, who uses her property during the off-season, rents her unit out during the summer, and has received complaints from renters over the issue.
“It is really bad. I have always enjoyed hearing the sound of the ocean but when I open my windows all I can hear is them carrying on down there. I am really disappointed that everybody is giving me the run around and nobody will get rid of them,” she said. “I have always loved Ocean City. It is a very unique place but something needs to be done about the homeless. I have talked people in the area of Caroline Street who have said it has affected their business. It needs to be said that somebody needs to take some kind of responsibility or come up with a law that they can’t sleep on the benches or in the bath house.”
Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters said City Manager David Recor and Police Chief Ross Buzzuro are aware of the situation.
“They will continue to explore what they can do within their legal rights but they have to make sure that the people who are spending time at the Caroline Street Comfort Station are breaking any rules. If they are not breaking any rules or ordinances then unfortunately there is not a lot that the police department can do about it,” Waters said. “We tell people often anytime you see someone doing something against the law to call the police immediately. If drinking and erratic behavior is taking place, then the call needs to take place at that time.”