“Lots of people thought the problems would end when we moved the Camillus House,” said Regalado. “I just want it on record that the beds will be used for the city of Miami.”
The city and Sarnoff are pushing hard to eliminate the remaining homeless in the downtown area, especially as thousands of new residents have moved into its skyscrapers and retailers have opened dozens of new restaurants up and down Flagler Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
The city and the Trust estimate there are about 350 people still living on downtown’s streets, though most, if not all, are believed to be chronically homeless who fight moves to find them shelter.
To strengthen the city’s hand, Sarnoff, fellow commissioners and the DDA are petitioning the courts to change the definition of “life-sustaining conduct” under Pottinger to exclude fires in parks, obstructing sidewalks, and certain lewd misconduct like urinating in public. They also want police to have the power to arrest the homeless who refuse to go to shelters three times in 180 days. The American Civil Liberties Union said it will listen to the city’s requests but warned of a looming battle.
In pushing his position, Sarnoff, who chairs the DDA, has even argued that cities continue to dump their homeless on Miami’s streets. Municipal leaders and Book counter that the few cities that did unload their homeless stopped the practice more than a decade ago.
Monday, after the budget vote and just prior to adjourning the session, Book looked directly at two Sarnoff staffers seated in the front row of the conference room.
“There is no known dumping going on,” he said.
The county’s Homeless Trust has long been recognized as a model for the nation. Founded two decades ago when more than 8,000 homeless flooded the county’s streets, those numbers have been reduced in total to less than 1,000. Only 351 are believed to be living in Miami.