By: Sharon Aron Baron
One Coral Springs woman has been living in her home in The Arbors in Coral Creek for almost eight years, but it wasn’t until five months ago that she realized there were homeless people living in her backyard.
Elyssa Sandbrand, who has been living in Coral Springs for 26 years, noticed something strange going on in the structure which is behind her home. The structure is an architectural feature of the Coral Creek Association and is one of several structures around the neighborhood.
It was sheer coincidence that Sandbrand noticed the homeless hideout. It wasn’t until a large palm leaf fell off and was up against the wall with only the top being visible that she believed her dog thought it was a cat and ran towards it. Her fiancé Rick jumped up on the wall to push the leaf off and noticed all of the items inside of the structure where someone had been living.
Sandbrand contacted the Coral Springs Police and they found boxes lining the dirt bottom of the structure and an egg crate being used as a mattress. Food, alcohol and beer bottles, were there as well clothes, shoes, a bible and sunglasses.
These were just from the first person that was living there.
Police told her that the person had been living there a long time due to the sheer volume of items. They also discovered stolen mail from a home in the nearby community of Turtle Run.
“The first time this happened, the cops were super helpful and told me that they were coming back periodically. I don’t think they arrested him, but they told him to leave,” she said. “ They called me later that night to call the property management company to clean up the mess left behind.”
The problem didn’t end with the police asking the first person to leave the premises. Soon another person was back living in the structure.
“I had a feeling the person was back. I felt like my screen doors to my patio were being opened when I wasn’t home. I also found trash in my backyard that would have been too heavy to blow in from the wind. When Rick came home, he checked it out and found out someone was back.”
They found the second person had less items like a box, a sweater or blanket, remnants of food, containers, and a razor. Sandbrand said there was a box of Monistat in there, so it could have been a female.
“The police, this time, seemed a little less helpful, and shrugged it off. They said they would send someone out, but it’s almost like they rely on me to tell them when the homeless person is there so they can get him out. They say they will check back during their shift, but then their shift ends, and then I never hear anything.”
Hoping for answers, Sandbrand attended a homeowner’s association meeting in April where she met Property Manager John Whittle with Integrity Property Management Company.
“John Whittle was not sympathetic to the situation and told me ‘We’re not doing anything about it, you need to call the cops,’” said Sandbrand. “Here they spent $20,000 on new landscaping for the community but they don’t have the money to fill in these structures to prevent homeless people from living in them.”
Ever since then the meeting, when Sandbrand contacts Integrity Property Management about the issue, they refer her to a woman named Julia, not John Whittle. “The last time I spoke to her she said John went out there and they aren’t going to do anything.”
“The police should be doing police work, not chasing homeless people out when the HOA can clearly prevent the problem by just filling in the structure with cement or close it off.”