When the city of Clearwater launched a $55 million waterfront revitalization plan, hoping to draw more people here, this is likely *not what they were hoping for.
"Yeah, I call it the zombie apocalypse," says visitor Callan Stokes..
A small army of homeless people - strung out on spice has descended on Clearwater's Station Square Park. Not exactly the image the city hoped to project just as thousands of people visit here to celebrate the 4th of July weekend.
"I've been here before," Stokes says, "and it wasn't like that before. So, that's when I can compare to."
Officials think a lot of the recent arrivals have been forced out of surrounding parks in St. Petersburg and Tampa.
"So, they have a pressure, and then they spread out. The police called the balloon effect," says Gabe Parra, Clearwater development manager.
In response, Clearwater has brought in the same homelessness consultant, Robert Marbut, that they had here five years ago. This time, he's trying to identify and address new challenges that have come with synthetic pot.
"And in some cases, the individuals that are involved with spice are not homeless at all but the receiving on the services, which ends up being extremely counterproductive," Marbut says.
A local church that feeds the homeless has also noticed the influx. Dozens of new faces in recent weeks. And the number of spice *cases - investigated by police has nearly *doubled. 38 in January. 61 in May according to Clearwater police.
Even the longtime homeless people here have taken notice. And frankly they don't like it either.
"They just all been pushing them here," says Paul Bremer, a homeless man.
Something that may provide temporary relief? Just two weeks ago the state attorney's office gave Clearwater police the authority to arrest spice suspects on the spot.
The number of homeless people now being arrested this month compared with the beginning of the year is up 50 percent.
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