To revive a carte blanche to violate the constitutional rights of this marginalized population by imposing harsh treatment would only exacerbate the problem not diminish it. That’s because it would displace the homeless population from the city’s core to other neighborhoods or municipalities of Greater Miami — which is exactly what the city government wants to pursue.
It would also overload the judicial system with people who are not reckless criminals. Rather, the majority are people suffering from mental illness and, or, substance abuse in need of appropriate treatment.
Before airing such rash proposals, the city should work toward creating and expanding programs to provide the homeless with shelter, meals, counseling, job training and medical assistance.
If the endless waiting lists for getting a shelter bed continues, where are these people who have found an inhospitable home on the rough asphalt going to sleep, eat or use a bathroom?
The excuse offered by commissioners and attorneys representing Big Business is that by arresting the homeless, the courts can offer them the opportunity to enter a rehabilitation program. Before taking them to jail, local governments should have set up a variety of social services to tend to them. Under the current Pottinger settlement, law enforcement has the ability to place homeless people into shelter beds now, where they can access appropriate treatment programs.
In a sweet conversation with Sister Lima Marie, superior of the Missionaries of Charity convent, she shared with me that when she looks at a homeless person knocking on her door, she sees a soul like any other. It would be so enlightening if city officials could cultivate that empathy with other people’s suffering and share that same vision.