The City of Vero Beach has partnered with organizations from the community’s private, corporate and nonprofit sectors to improve downtown’s Pocahontas Park. It’s a park that Mayor John E. Cotugno passionately describes as “the jewel of downtown.” Cotugno and his fellow City Council members and City administrators held a called meeting recently to discuss the ideas and goals to rejuvenate the park.
Regarding the condition of the park, Cotugno said it “looks worn, even unsightly.” People who previously enjoyed sitting on the park benches or playing in the historic playground aren’t feeling safe anymore, he said. “The fountain is not working properly, restrooms need refurbishing, and some of the unhoused members of the community have become an issue in a one-time popular gathering spot in the center of town,” Cotugno said. “Now is the right time to address this problem and come together as a caring community to beautify our jewel.”
The first nonprofit to step up already had the idea on their drawing board. The Source is a nonprofit addressing the complex needs of the homeless, unemployed and low-income individuals. Its newest program is Community Works. This program is designed to help clean the community’s public streets and properties, while at the same time allowing Source members to earn a paycheck.
Jade Alexander, Director of Operations for The Source, said, “We know that the leading cause of homelessness is a catastrophic loss of family and community. So, we are also making a statement that community is what will work to end homelessness.”
Members are paid by The Source. They dress in uniforms while picking up trash along streets, lawns and alleyways. They provide pressure cleaning and do other work to beautify the city. The Source committed $30,000 from its operational budget to pay participants.
Other organizations are committing to the program including Main Street Vero Beach, the Indian River Chamber of Commerce, the Vero Beach Police Department and an incoming corporate sponsor, Piper Aircraft.
The city is identifying others who want to help and creating a timetable. “We see the theme of working together to be the pathway to our goal,” Cotugno said. “We believe, for the community to enjoy the park again, we need it updated, better lit, safe and clean with more police presence for the public and businesses downtown.”