It looked like a typical Miami street festival at a park filled with tents, community leaders and cops.
But this event had a greater purpose: offering Miami’s homeless some basic necessities.
For 12 hours Friday, volunteers, outreach organizations and police officers worked together at the event, called Miami’s Homeless Citizen's Stand Down. The mission: to supply food, clothes, medical care and other services to those who made their way to Lummus Park.
“We want to bring everyone together with their resources to help as many people in need as possible,” said Officer James Bernat, senior executive assistant to the chief of police and the homeless coordinator for the Miami Police Department. “We decided on Lummus Park because our homeless population is concentrated in downtownm, and this a central location close to Overtown, Allapattah and Little Havana, which makes it convenient for everyone to come out to the park.”
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One of those at the park, 404 NW Third St., in search of help was 71-year-old Sydney Brown.
“My friend over at Government Center said they were out here doing things to help the homeless people,” Brown said Friday morning. “I made my way out here to sign up for housing cause I’m on the streets.”
Some didn’t ask for much.
“I’m just trying to get my hair cut,” Alison Elmore said.
The man giving those haircuts was Lynnward McClyde. He was brought off the streets by police last year and given shelter. While homeless, he graduated from barber school and received his license to cut hair.
“I’ve been homeless before and I wanted to give something back,” McClyde said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to give somebody some hope that there is a way out. This program may not reach everyone, but those that it does reach will hopefully be able to come out and do the same thing that I’m doing.”
The event from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. builds upon the annual Stand Down for homeless veterans every April. With more than 100 volunteers at the park and hundreds of homeless expected through the day, organizers on Friday predict this version of the Stand Down to become an annual event as well.
Janette Chandler, a 20-year Navy veteran, now volunteers for the city and helped organize the veteran Stand Down, as well as Friday’s event.
“Some of the people are so appreciative,” Chandler said. “They get a change of clothes, they get something to eat. It’s enormous to me. I love being able to connect with them.”