Homeless colony moves to motel near Haines City
If you're looking for a room in the Haines City area, don't bother checking out the Stay Plus Inn on U.S. Highway 27 -- there are no vacancies.
That's because the motel just took in dozens of new guests who came here when the group homes and shelters where they were living in Hollywood, Florida, closed.
Fernando Leuthner, who owns Liberty Tire right across the highway from the motel, is concerned.
"Are you afraid the crime rate might go up?" FOX 13 asked.
"Yes, I am. I am concerned about that," said Leuthner.
Polk County doesn't seem that thrilled either.
Deputy Polk County manager Gary Hester told the Sun Sentinel in Broward County that the group would not exactly be received with open arms here in central Florida.
"We would hope that the folks in (Hollywood) would deal with their own problems and not ship them somewhere else," Hester said.
Technically, though, Hollywood did not send the motel's new guests here; a man named Sean Cononie brought them here. Cononie is a long-time south Florida homeless advocate.
Recently, Hollywood bought Cononie's properties, which included eight group homes, shelters and his personal residence. They also made him promise he would never own property in the city again. He got paid $5 million dollars to seal the deal.
"I have been exiled," Cononie told FOX via Skype. "Sex offenders have it better. I think I am the first person in America to be exiled."
Cononie said he moved his people to East Polk County because he was there playing baseball when he was younger, and he liked it.
"If the community is upset because they used to be homeless, well, I don't know what to tell you," Connie said. "I still feel in America, everyone deserves a place to live."