The streets of downtown Miami and Miami Beach were mostly empty Saturday morning, except for a scattering of homeless people with no place to go as Hurricane Irma’s winds began to pick up.
In downtown Miami, three slept on the sidewalk on Flagler Street in front of the Miami-Dade Public Library. Others walked here and there. Some gathered on street corners. One woman, her hands folded as if in prayer, muttered as she looked up toward the sky.
Guatemala native Carlos Mena, 67, sought shelter at a bus bench outside the library. Asked if he would go indoors at some point later in the day, he simply shook his head: “No problem,” he said. “No hay problema.”
A homeless man was sleeping in front of the Carl Fisher Post Office Branch on West Avenue in Miami Beach Saturday morning between bands from Hurricane Irma.
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With about 1,100 people living on the streets countywide, outreach workers this week have been trying to get the homeless into shelters ahead of the storm. On Friday, social workers and police offered them a stark choice: Come willingly to a storm shelter, or be held against their will for a mental health evaluation.
Invoking the “Baker Act,” which is a law that enables authorities to institutionalize patients who present a danger to themselves or others, is not something law enforcement does lightly, but officers detained at least six people on Friday. Under the law, they can be held up to 72 hours before the state would have to go to court to prolong their detention. Officials said it is the first time Miami has invoked the law for hurricane preparedness. About 70 people willingly climbed into white vans and police squad cars Friday, joining others who already arrived at shelters.