Homelessness: A Plan, Progress for Housing

Homelessness is on the rise in Miami in 2015, the first time in years, as documented by outreach teams in January and reaffirmed with a census in August. Although concentrated in Miami’s Downtown urban core, the problem is overflowing into the Brickell community from the north, while directly south of Brickell, the homeless have a long-standing encampment in the rare hammock at Alice Wainwright Park. No one seems to be able to do anything about the encampment, which we are told includes cooking and running water. BHA Vice President Bill Fitch has been closely following the homeless issue, and provided this update in the Fall 2015 BHA News.

In our Summer BHA News we urged residents to make their voices heard on the issue of continuing a successful temporary mat pilot program for homeless on our streets. There was philosophical disagreement over the value of the stopgap measure of placing mats in a courtyard for homeless at night versus the more desirable traditional indoor beds.

Many of us, including the City of Miami, Downtown Development Authority and the Miami-Dade County Commission were requesting the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust reconsider the ideal and do more with their $54 million dollar budget to find ways to provide the homeless alternatives to life on the streets.

Since that meeting in June, a Memorandum of Understanding was established between Miami-Dade County, City of Miami and Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. The entities came to agreement in several areas and created a plan that was rolled out October 1st. The Homeless Trust is calling it “Strike Force: Urban Core.”

The plan includes apartments for those homeless transitioning out, fortified with social services to help them get back on their feet. Additionally, another 150 emergency bed placements were created as part of the plan, half of which are at Camillus House, accomplished by converting single beds to bunk beds to accommodate more people. All temporary and emergency beds must comply with the Addendum to the Pottinger Settlement Agreement, which covers protections of the rights of homeless.

On another front, Miami Mayor Regalado announced a $500,000 grant to the Downtown Development Authority to be used to purchase portable toilets similar to the “Pit Stop” units in San Francisco that we discussed in our last issue. A contract has been negotiated with the manufacturer and these should be on our streets soon.