MCARE Sends Open Letter to Miami Officials Over Threats of Evicting Homeless on Christmas

Sent December 29, 2021
To: Francis Suarez, Mayor, City of Miami
Christine King, Chair, City of Miami Commission
Victoria Méndez, Miami City Attorney
Art Noriega, Miami City Manager
William Porro, Director, Miami Department of Human Services
RE: Eviction Notices at the Wharf Homeless Encampment

We — concerned physicians, the Miami Street Medicine Team, the Greater Miami ACLU, the Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity (MCARE), and other organizations and advocates concerned for the rights of persons experiencing homelessness — write to request that the City of Miami revoke its expressed intent to dismantle the homeless encampment on SW 2nd Street between SW 2nd Avenue and the Miami River (the “Wharf area”) during the COVID omicron variant surge.

The timing of evicting unhoused persons from the area during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays renders the City’s plans especially cruel. And given the heightened transmissibility of the omicron variant, and the federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines warning of the grave public health dangers of dispersing homeless persons during the pandemic, the City’s plans are reckless and endanger the community.

As you know, on December 21st the Miami Department of Human Services posted numerous
eviction notices on the fences in the Wharf area, warning the unhoused persons living there to vacate the area due to purported “construction” on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021. This threat to evict homeless persons on Christmas Eve signals that the City has sunk to an inhumane new low in its ongoing campaign to criminalize homelessness.

Of course, no construction started in the Wharf area on Christmas Eve, which was also a federal and state holiday. But the impact of the notices is clear: they compound the trauma of persons living on the streets and will pressure them to leave the area at a difficult time. As a result, we’ve received multiple reports of heightened anxiety suffered by this vulnerable population of unhoused persons already stressed by the City’s recent enactment of an ordinance banning encampments, which threatens the possibility of widespread arrests and fines for the “crime” of not being able to afford a home.

Aside from the cruelty of threatening to evict unhoused persons during the holidays, it is utterly dangerous and irresponsible for the City to dismantle homeless encampments during the COVID pandemic. The federal Centers for Disease Control advises localities to “allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are.” The CDC further notes that–

“Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break
connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”

Centers for Disease Control

MCARE is an alliance of 22 organizations advocating for the rights of persons experiencing homelessness through the MCARE Housing Justice Campaign.

This federal directive not to dismantle encampments during the COVID pandemic is heightened now when the omicron variant is surging and infections are increasing at an exponential rate throughout Miami-Dade County. By ignoring federal health guidelines during this time of escalating COVID infections, the City threatens to ignite a public health crisis if it follows through on its threat to clear the homeless encampment at the Wharf.

The health professional signatories to this letter have previously witnessed unhoused persons suffering severe physical and mental trauma resulting from the City’s aggressive dismantling of encampments: a woman convulsing on the street shortly after the City trashed her medications; another person being dragged down the street while still in his tent. The City’s encampment clearings are violent affairs that traumatize our community’s most vulnerable residents even in the best of circumstances.

Simply put, the City’s intent to dismantle the encampment at the Wharf during the omicron variant surge would spark a public health crisis, further inflict serious trauma and property loss on those affected, violate their constitutional rights and the City’s own regulations, and disrespect the solemn assurances the City gave in federal court that it would continue to observe the Pottinger protections even after termination of the Consent Decree.

We request that the City retract its stated intent to dismantle the encampment at the Wharf area during the omicron variant surge. We are available to discuss constructive alternatives to the dismantling of the encampment. Please respond to David Peery, Executive Director, Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity,, (305) 345-7037.

David Peery, Founder, Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity
Armen Henderson, MD, Dade County Street Response (Miami Street Medicine Team)
Rossana Arteaga-Gomez, Esq., President, ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter
Benji Waxman, Esq., Board Member, ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter
Alana Greer, Esq., Community Justice Project
Mara Shlackman, Esq., South Florida Chapter, National Lawyers Guild
Dante P. Trevisani, Esq., Florida Justice Institute
Jose Dominguez, People’s Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade
Katrina Duesterhaus, Communications Director, Florida National Organization for Women
Emelie Jimenez, Founder, The BC Community Project
Lauren Mason, Be The Change, South Florida
Noelvis Gonzalez, One World.One Heart
Dan Bergholz (MD Candidate), Founder, Miami Street Medicine
Edward Noguera and Morgan Murphy, CoChairs, Miami Chapter Democratic Socialists of America
Katrina Ciraldo, MD
Sabrina Hennecke (MD/MPH candidate)
Alison Dos Santos
Laurie Scop
Nicole Schmidt

Cc: Daniella Levine-Cava, Mayor, Miami-Dade County
Ron Book, Chair, Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust
Victoria Mallette, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust
David Rosemond, Department of Human Services HEAT Unit
Sergio Torres, Director, Miami Department of Veteran Affairs and Homeless Services
Annie Lord, Executive Director, Miami Homes For All
Bianca Marcof, Biscayne Times and Miami Times
Anna Kaiser, Miami Herald
Miami New Times
Daniel Rivero, WLRN

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