Miami’s homeless greatly in need of a helping hand

Carla St.Louis | 2/13/2014, 9 a.m.

The ACLU stepped in on behalf of the men, and after a decade of litigation with the City, both parties settled on the Pottinger rights, a set of laws that protect the homeless population from being criminalized by police officers.

Over two decades later, the Miami City Commission upped their ante against the homeless community on April 9 of last year when members unanimously voted to pursue ratifying the Pottinger.  

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Modifying Pottinger was largely planned by the City in partnership with its development authority and garnered support from Mayor Tomas Regalado to re-energize the city’s lucrative downtown district.

“The City was attempting to eliminate what they saw as the unsightly and annoying presence of 300-400 largely chronically homeless persons in downtown Miami,” said Waxman.

“Civic leaders have to balance the needs of the homeless — especially the chronically homeless with the needs of the general population,” said Boone. “In this instance, the City of Miami is attempting to address the issue depending on the current climate.”

“This will allow the city to grow like other cities that don’t have Pottinger,” said Miami City Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff, who also directs the Downtown Development Authority, which fought for the changes.

The City argued that Pottinger was out-dated citing it had grown while the number of homeless residents dwindled. Countywide homeless numbers have dropped from about 8,000 to 800 due to the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust (MDCHT) — an outfit that was created to resolve the City’s escalating number of homeless people.  

MDCHT announced a strategy for caring for the chronically homeless that includes getting to know them, providing homes, and tracking their efforts. The “100,000 Homes” campaign works in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with the goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2015.

“It’s a relatively new strategy of first addressing the homeless populations need for housing not necessarily shelters but apartments, and then addressing the other causes of homelessness like unemployment, substance abuse, addiction, mental illness, lack of education and inadequate access to benefits,” said Waxman.  “Previously, agencies would attempt to establish rehabilitation plans for homeless persons who — through compliance — would ‘earn’ housing.”

Prior to the approval by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, the Miami City Commission must approve the modified settlement drafted by ACLU and the City for it to become law.

If you are homeless in Miami you may file written objections to the proposed changes by February 14th with the Clerk of the U.S. District Court at Courtroom 13-3, 400 North Miami Avenue, Miami 33128. A public hearing on the proposals is scheduled for February 28th at 10 am in Courtroom 13-3.

The settlement between both parties allows the City to revisit Pottinger in 2016 if the homeless issue remains a problem downtown.

For more information on the addendum of the Pottinger rights, log on to: http://aclufl.org/resources/pottinger-agreement-addendum/.