The city of West Palm Beach, Florida, is driving out homeless people who need to sleep by playing obnoxious music all night long near a banquet venue.
The continuous loop of children’s songs, such as “Baby Shark” and “Raining Tacos,” is meant to keep people from congregating outside the glass-walled Waterfront Lake Pavilion, which is expected to bring in about $240,000 this year from events, according to the Palm Beach Post.
“People are paying a lot of money to use the facility,” Parks and Recreation Director Leah Rockwell told the Post. “Thousands of dollars. We want to make sure people paying this money had a facility that was clean and open and continue to use it in the future.”
A reporter with West Palm Beach’s CBS affiliate WPEC tweeted a video last week of the city playing “Raining Tacos” at the pavilion, adding, “Someone is still out here sleeping through it.”
Assistant City Administrator Armando Fana told HuffPost that West Palm Beach has a family-friendly event in that area called “Summer in Paradise” where children’s music is played all day. While most of the area turns off the music at around 9 p.m., the city has decided to keep it playing outside the Lake Pavilion overnight until about 10 a.m.
Fana said that the music is “not a strategy for homelessness,” but rather “a strategy for this particular building.” He said the music is meant to more generally address late-night congregating outside the banquet hall, and that the songs will temporarily play until the city can get proper signs posted to enforce trespassing.
“I would just encourage the public to look beyond the headlines and actually look at what the city is doing to address homelessness, because [West Palm Beach] is one of the more progressive cities when it comes to trying to help homeless people and help them with their core situation,” Fana said, citing more humane efforts like building subsidized housing, creating peer outreach programs and getting people temporary rent assistance to prevent looming homelessness.
A spokesperson for the National Coalition for the Homeless did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, but interim director Megan Hustings told CNN that the city’s music plan “shows a lack of concern for our community members who are struggling through a very tough time.”
“Responding with this kind of discrimination and disgust instead of compassion is … really immoral. It’s disturbing,” Hustings told CNN. “We’re all humans, and we need to sleep.”
Cities across the country are facing rising homelessness amid a housing crisis and widening inequality, as HuffPost’s “This New World” series has reported. Some cities are dealing with calls to criminalize panhandling and destroy tent encampments. Others have put spikes on ledges and extra armrests on park benches.
Americans consistently tell pollsters they support homeless services, but also tend to back exclusionary policies that hurt homeless people, like bans on sleeping in public. Meanwhile, evidence strongly suggests that punishing homeless people makes it more difficult for them to find housing and work.