9 Investigates: Downtown Orlando library, a homeless hotbed

ORLANDO, Fla. — Most of the people who have been kicked out of downtown's Orlando Public Library for serial flashing, drug use, alcohol consumption and sex acts have something in common -- they're homeless.

9 Investigates reviewed court records and discovered that most of the people who were asked to leave the facility are homeless.

The Orange County Library System refused to allow Channel 9 into the library to record video or to interview patrons, but records shed light on the daily challenges librarians face.

Dozens of people gather outside the library each morning before it opens.

"The second the doors open, you see everybody running inside, trying to grab a computer," said Mencey Sanchez, who is one of the more than 220 people who were banned from the library from 2017 to 2019.

A review of court records revealed that more than 90 percent of the people who are banned from the facility are homeless.

Andrae Bailey is CEO of the Lead Homelessness Initiative and was previously CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness.

"If there’s over 200 people with trespassing warnings, how many total homeless people go to that library every single day; every single month?" he said. "Hundreds more than that."

Bailey said downtown libraries nationwide have essentially become daytime homeless shelters.

"That’s the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about," he said. "You're as likely to find someone who is homeless in our library as you are to find your favorite author's book."

Most people who are kicked out of the downtown library have violated rules, such as bathing in restrooms, eating or sleeping.

That was the case for Sanchez. Library notes said that he brought food into the library. He said he also fell asleep.

"My reason for being in the library is to do stuff I have to do," he said. "I’m applying for food stamps, jobs. (I) apply for my ID, stuff like that. That one day, I was tired."

But others who have been told to leave could endanger children.

Addison Brown, a serial flasher and a registered sexual predator, was banned from the library in February 2016 for disorderly lewd conduct.

Keith Henderson was kicked out after he exposed himself and had drugs in his possession, police said.

A library worker accused Bernard Reynolds of masturbating in the science fiction section.

Each man was listed as homeless and will be allowed to return to the library in 2019.

Patrons may not enter the library's children’s section without a child, and no one older than age 18 may enter the juvenile section.

"It’s considered the homeless library," said Sanchez, whose ban expires in January.

OCLS wouldn't provide an on-camera interview, but a library spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that its rules are applied fairly and that all library employees have the ability to enforce rules.

An off-duty Orlando police officer staffs the library daily to issue trespass warnings and to handle other issues.

OCLS is part of a group that seeks a more permanent solution to housing Orlando's homeless population.

Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.