Sanford looks at fixing contaminated property for new homeless center

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Sanford city leaders said they've found a new site for a homeless center, but homeless advocates said the building on South Holly Avenue is on land that may be contaminated.

WFTV's Bianca Castro learned that's just one of several issues with the site.

Some Sanford residents said group meals, like the ones held near Centennial Park, are contributing to the downtown homeless problem.

"They have a reputation for stealing. And when you steal, people don't want you in their neighborhood," said D.R. Oglesby, a downtown Sanford resident.

For years, they've been asking the city to step in and move the feedings elsewhere, and now, the city is looking at an abandoned property.

The property is an old drug treatment center in an industrial part of town. The city is looking at it as a new home for the homeless: a place they can eat, shower and sleep.

From the outside, the place looks ideal. There are dorm rooms lining the halls and a large kitchen facility out back. But it's what's in the ground that could pose a problem.

The proposed shelter sits on land that went through a massive environmental cleanup a few years ago. And the city still has to chip in part of the $1.5 million needed for Environmental Protection Agency monitoring. Plus, homeless advocates said the location could cause other problems.

"They have to cross 17-92. We have folks in wheelchairs, folks in poor health, in walkers and families with children," said Ryan Bozeman, a homeless advocate.

But city leaders consider it the ideal location, which surprised Steve Wilcox.

He and his neighbors, who live behind the building, didn't know about the plans until now. They plan to put up a fight.

"Honestly, I believe the city is trying to hide it," said Wilcox.

The city is still adding up the costs to fix up the property. A nonprofit would be chosen to operate the center.