At 10 p.m., “Baby Shark” begins:
“Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo
“Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo
"Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo
“Mommy shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.....”
After 1 minute and 45 seconds of additional “doo doos” for Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa shark, tiny goldfish sing “it’s the end,” and that’s true for the first round of the song but not for the madness, which lasts another eight hours until the sun rises over the intercoastal waterway that abuts the pavilion terrace.
Next up in the loop of torturous tunes is “Raining Tacos,” a song about tacos (“shell! meat! lettuce! cheese!”) falling from the sky:
"It’s raining tacos
"From out of the sky
"No need to ask why
“Just open your mouth and close your eyes
"It’s raining tacos.”
The music volume complies with city code and is a temporary measure while officials explore setting enforceable hours for the Lake Pavilion and Great Lawn, city spokeswoman Kathleen Walter said.
The tunes, she said, are meant “to discourage congregating at the building and, if applicable, to encourage people to seek safer, more appropriate shelter through the many resources that are available.”
Those resources include job training and a street team of advocates who “meet people where they are” and connect them with the help they need, including shelter and resources to deal with addiction or mental health issues, West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said.
“Guess it’s good that this story is capturing so much attention, because I do hope it opens up a broader conversation, a nationwide conversation frankly, about the state of homelessness throughout the country,” James said.
But the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County said it disagrees with the city’s new tactic.
“For many years local government agencies, including the City of West Palm Beach, have supported the Homeless Coalition in our efforts to advocate and provide needed programs and services in the Palm Beach County area,” board chair Sophia Eccleston and CEO Shea Spencer said in a joint statement. “We believe every person who is homeless should be treated with dignity and do not agree with the recent strategy used to deter the homeless from Lake Pavilion.”
Spencer and Eccleston said in their statement that the coalition plans to continue working with the city to come up with a “preferred approach” that fosters long-term solutions.
“It is well documented that the needs far outweigh the resources available, waiting lists are long and the lack of affordable housing poses a particularly challenging obstacle for us to overcome,” the statement said.
A few weeks ago, city officials brainstormed ways to deter unwanted behavior at the waterfront pavilion, the mayor said, which included people sleeping but also “unpleasant souvenirs left there, including human feces.”
Music was suggested. The Parks and Recreation staff decided on “Baby Shark” and “Raining Tacos.”
So far, it’s working.
“All indications are that it’s having the results we anticipated,” James said. “Listen, it’s a very annoying song. So, yes.”
Jennifer Ferriol, director of Housing and Community Development for the city, told the Palm Beach Post that they “know all the homeless by name and engage with them on a regular basis.”
Good sleep is critical to a person’s overall physical and mental wellness, and lack of it can compound challenges that those experiencing homelessness are already struggling to manage.
“Having to live without a place that is home is tiring — physically, mentally, emotionally, in every way,” Bobby Watts, chief executive of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, told Rewire. News last year. “Your need for sleep is greater, but your ability to get sleep is even less than if you were living in a home.”
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Illaya Champion told the Palm Beach Post that he lies in the shade by the pavilion patio to protect himself from the sun and rain. “It’s wrong,” he said of the new music. “It don’t bother me. I still lay down in there. But it’s on and on, the same songs.”
The mayor said he understands why people would find the area attractive for sleep. At night, it is mostly quiet. The pavilion and lawn are right by the water, which brings a pleasant breeze during Florida’s punishing summers.
“If you’re looking for a quiet place to lay your head, that’s where you would go,” James said.
But the area was built as a “jewel” for entertaining and events, he said.
“People pay good money to use the pavilion,” James said, “and we want them to have a good experience there.”
Within the next week, he said, the city plans to post signs that say the area is closed from midnight to 6 a.m. This will grant them enforcement power.
“Again, we’re not going to arrest our way out of the homeless problem,” he said. “I think it’s important to look at each person, to each situation, to make a decision” about how tackle the issue.
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