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Pottinger settlement for the affluent?

Miami Times Editorial Department | 3/13/2014, 9 a.m.
Things are not what they used to be. Back in the day Some 16 years ago, a homeless person on ...

Things are not what they used to be.

Back in the day Some 16 years ago, a homeless person on Miami’s heavily patrolled streets enjoyed cooked meal before finding somehow, a good night’s sleep on the limiting comforts of a piece of cardboard on hard pavement.

Fast forward to Friday, February 28, 2014. That’s when Judge Federico Moreno of the United States Southern District Court at the Wilke D. Ferguson Courthouse downtown approved the new Pottinger Settlement, a new, revised agreement that gave the poor less rights to the homeless. City officials said the change was necessary to balance the poor’s needs with those of the affluent who are populating upscale condominiums and high-end retail shop that are rapidly transforming downtown into a booming metropolis.

Miami has come a long way to become the great cosmopolitan city that is today. City leaders should be applauded for their efforts in this transformation that give will give South Florida’s economy a much needed boost with millions of tourism dollars.

However, these efforts should not come at the expense of the Homeless. Once a shield to protect the poor from power elite, some homeless advocates the new Pottinger Settlement will now protect the rich from the poor, removing the homeless from sights and journeys to fancy ballets and shopping excursions.

The city cannot afford to ignore the realities of its poor in the name of progress. A return to the days where the homeless were roughed up is sure to resurrect tensions between the haves and haves not. That’s not progress, but failure.

One can only hope the core of the original Pottinger Settlement remains to honor the three brave homeless men who ignited a successful class action suit against the city that affirm the civil rights and liberties for thousands of homeless people and became the model of the nation. Thus far, the agreement has reduced bullying by police who delighted at harassing the defenseless poor, putting them in handcuffs and setting fire to their meagre belongings just for senseless thrills.

To what degree the new agreement will succeed in protecting the poor remains to be seen.