There will be plenty of feeding. Were just getting out of the soup-line business, Ahr said. The main show is, we want to end chronic homelessness in Miami, and we kept our eye on the prize.
Less clear is what comes next for Park West, once the warehousing district for the Port of Miami when it was on the site of Bicentennial Park, and long Miamis skid row. Marked for redevelopment in the 1970s and 80s, Park West saw little beyond demolition of flophouses and construction of the since-demolished Miami Arena and a pair of residential high-rises.
An ambitious, multi-block redevelopment project, Miami World Center, collapsed along with the real-estate boom. And despite signs of life, including the club district and developer-activist Brad Knoeflers renovation of the Grand Central loft building and construction of an adjacent temporary park on the old arena site, those remain islands in a wasteland of vacant lots used for AmericanAirlines Arena parking.
Its not a panacea, Knoefler said of the shelters relocation. Camillus House has been symbolic of the homeless problem downtown for many years, but its not the cause. The homeless are downtown because its a kind of no-mans land. That Camillus House is out of the neighborhood is a good thing, for sure, but the dynamics are more complicated than that.
Its also unclear whether the homeless people who congregate in the area will go elsewhere. Though their numbers seemed to drop as Camillus ramped down operations downtown, many of them are chronically homeless people who refuse the treatment services necessary to get them settled into housing.
Some may stick around for the meals distributed by volunteers who drive downtown to feed the homeless a controversial practice that city officials, Knoefler and others say produces litter and unsanitary conditions while discouraging people from seeking help.
As long as they feed them, then theyre going to be here, said Willie Thomas, a homeless man hanging out with a group across the street from the old shelter last week.
There is also concern that some will indeed drift to the Jackson area, already a draw for homeless people because of the Sisters of Charity facility, a small shelter with a soup line across Northwest Seventh Avenue from the new Camillus campus.
But Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes downtown, called the shelters departure a game changer.
This is as big a deal as Miami will ever see downtown, he said.
As for the Camillus property, its for sale and is already drawing interest, Ahr said. A private party has offered more than $2 million, he said.