Miami Times Staff Report
A Miami City Commission vote that homeless advocates had been dreading for weeks happened last Thursday after it was deferred on Oct. 14
Despite several attempts from housing rights groups to stop the passage of an anti-camping ordinance, it passed 4-1 in a final reading with only Commissioner Ken Russell dissenting.
The ordinance, which will go into effect in less than 30 days, prohibits temporary housing structures and encampments on public property, giving police authority to issue warnings or arrest anyone violating the new law.
Officers must offer an alternative to individuals experiencing homelessness who are living in makeshift encampments. After refusal to relocate to a shelter and clear out belongings within two hours, arrests can be made.
“The anti-encampment is not new,” said activist David Peery during public comment. “What’s worse is that we’re going to be paying more money to not solve the problem. Arrests are simply a way to make homelessness worse.”
District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo, who sponsored the ordinance, showed a documentary-style video prior to the vote to support his belief that Miami’s homeless population consists of drug addicts.
The video shows Carollo going around asking individuals on the street if they were homeless and whether they’d be interested in being directed to a nearby shelter. For reasons not specified in the video, a majority of the people Carollo spoke with turned down his offer.
Carollo told commissioners that he believed it was because guidelines and rules at homeless shelters make it difficult for addicts to continue doing drugs.
“What I’m not going to do any longer is [feed] the beast of homelessness,” he said during the meeting, explaining that the city has spent too much money addressing its homelessness problem. “Our residents are going to be treated with the same courtesy, professionalism and the same rights that homeless people are in our streets. Our residents are the ones that have become second-class citizens and it’s not right [in] our society.”
Alongside the ordinance, commissioners passed the “Adopt a Homeless” resolution, also sponsored by Carollo, in a 3-2 vote.
Through the resolution, city residents can sign up to provide necessities like a bed, food, water and electricity to homeless individuals.
City Manager Art Noriega is responsible for maintaining a list of volunteers and finding financial assistance programs to “reimburse” residents, eliminating a financial burden on the city.
“We don’t have to provide a 5-star hotel service of encampment,” added Carollo.