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Miami's Dirty Secret

As art collectors and wealthy winter tourists descend on Miami to wine, dine and party, where do we hide the children?

I don't mean to be a bore, but when I read about the InterContinental Hotel's 19-story dancing woman and $30 million renovation, and the new Orchid velvet-tented fantasyland in the Design District, where diners indulge on craft cocktails and elaborate meals while dancers in pasties simulate pollination, I was reminded of the decadent banquet scene in The Hunger Games. The one where Katniss is appalled to see Capitol residents binging and purging on an endless supply of ridiculously rich food because all she can think about is her family and friends starving back home.

Miami, where is your soul?

While you're busy one upping yourself on the hedonistic scale, you already rank near the top in the country for having one of the highest concentrations of children living in poverty.

Among major U.S. cities, Miami is third when it comes to claiming the highest share (49%) of children living in poverty, behind only Detroit and Cleveland, according to KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

How does that happen in a city where people are paying to eat sushi off of naked women and the city's finance staff "uncovers" a $45 million surplus after shaking down its labor unions and squeezing more concessions out of the working class?

These children aren't sitting naked on our street corners with distended bellies. They're sitting next to our kids in class. They're probably even wearing that Abercrombie & Fitch shirt your kid cast off to the consignment shop last year.

Nearly 1 in 4 children in Miami-Dade County Public Schools comes from homes operating below the poverty level. That's an impossible $22,314 for a family of four.

Miami's poor have the audacity to look normal so it makes it easier to sip your latte and ignore the Miami Rescue Mission's $2 "Meal(s)-A-Month Club" or the $7.53 no-rinse body wash the Camillus House has on its Amazon.com Wish List or the $10-a-month club at Lotus House that provides three meals to women and children there.

Keep dancing, Miami.

But remember: Even children of neglect manage to grow up. Then you may have to notice them.

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