Community Conversations

Weighing in on the state of homelessness

Shown here, a Miami police officer enforcing city ordinances being broken by the homeless. Many readers shared that they saw the homeless on their commute.
Shown here, a Miami police officer enforcing city ordinances being broken by the homeless. Many readers shared that they saw the homeless on their commute. Miami Herald File

As part of Community Conversations, we’re sharing your answers to this question: Thoughts on the state of homelessness in Miami-Dade?

We asked the following question to readers on social media and the Public Insight Network recently: Thoughts on the state of homelessness in Miami-Dade? Thanks for all of your responses. Below is a sampling of your comments, some of which were edited for length and clarity. Learn more about the Public Insight Network and comment on previous discussions at MiamiHerald.com/community and select Community Conversations.

I’m a student at Miami Dade Wolfson campus located downtown, so I am very familiar with the homeless population in that area. I am one of the few people who interacts with the homeless here. Most people walk past the breathing bodies sleeping on cardboard and surrounded by trash without so much as a glance. I do not know why people ignore them. For two years, I have made a point to save extra food and look for homeless people by Government Center Metrorail Station in order to give it to them. I have made friends with several of them, most recently being Blossom, an elderly black woman who always wishes me well as I walk home. ... Homelessness is a personal and pervasive issue in South Florida and I am sure individuals who are more educated than I have ideas on better ways to deal with homelessness here than are being implemented now. All I know is that the most effective actions individuals can take to alleviate the burden of homelessness is to stop ignoring them. They are often always in need of food, water and hygienic products, but if you don’t have that to give them, acknowledgment is often just as appreciated. The worst thing about being homeless is being ignored. Next time, simply say hello.

Anya Contreras, Miami

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We have some incredible, dedicated organizations to help the homeless in our community, but they are mostly for the homeless who are willing to reintegrate in society or live in a shelter. Some simply cannot or will not be a part of our society, but that does not mean they should go hungry. Being a street resident, regardless of job status or state of mental health, means you get up in the morning, live your life, and at the end of the day return to your little place on the sidewalk to sleep. These people still need to eat. They still need clothes. They need sanitary items. Some organizations lack action on the streets. Yes, many street residents can be untrusting and defensive, but it’s important to have community help. Other countries have “pay it forward” type systems in mom & pop shops, where a person can pay for an extra sandwich or a coffee and not eat it, so someone who is hungry can come in and get it for free later.

Maryan Firpo, Hialeah

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There has to be something more that we all need to be doing, but the local government must provide the structure and guidance. It is unacceptable to see whole settlements of homeless individuals living along U.S. 1. This is dangerous for them and for everyone else. It is obvious that many of them are not healthy — physically and mentally. All municipalities, etc. are affected. I see it in the areas I frequent, which include Pinecrest, Coral Gables, South Miami, Miami, Coconut Grove and Downtown Miami and Wynwood. The situation continues to grow exponentially. I have directly questioned officials and the response I get is that Miami-Dade has some of the best programs in the country. I cannot accept that as true. We cannot continue to ignore this.

Ana Escobar, Miami

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I think all states should mirror Utah’s successful solution to cure homelessness in their state. They literally gave their homeless population homes with counselors assigned to each. The model has worked for them and other states are beginning to follow suit. It costs less to enforce shameful laws like Fort Lauderdale’s recent move to make it illegal to feed homeless there. There is a better way and leaders need to stop kicking the can down the road.

Eric Vasallo, Miami

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I have had several opportunities to interact with the homeless community here in South Florida. From what my experiences can gather, many of these people carry mental illnesses that disable them from being able to hold a job or run a household and family. ... We need to reinvest in mental institutions, and in the mental health of citizens right here in South Florida. We also need to better educate the public on benefits the handicapped and mentally disabled can apply for and receive so that we can keep them off the streets, which in the long run is a much cheaper opportunity versus having them homeless.

Alex Hernandez, Miami

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With all the money spent on professional sports teams, there is no excuse for anyone to be hungry or homeless. The governor has not allocated his funds properly. Legislators are spending too much time and money worrying about who can marry whom and nonsense like that. While the market seems more accessible for those that speak another language, native speakers need jobs, too. More should be spent on children.

Corinne Robbins, Miami

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It is an issue that affects many people, including school-aged children. But thankfully we have great people who work at organizations like Chapman Partnership, Camillus House and municipalities like City of Miami Beach and law enforcement agencies like Miami Police, that are helping many deserving people find a place to sleep, receive medical attention, eat a hot lunch and/or dinner, and even assist homeless people and families with opportunities to find a job or learn new skills. The issue we need to spend more time on is educating the rest of the county as to how easy it is to get involved to eradicate this problem and help our community members that need the most help.

Frank Diaz, Miami Lakes

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The state of homelessness in Miami-Dade is universal and unpredictable for all working class individuals employed under Florida’s Right to Work laws. The mixture of low wages and high wage garnishments makes Florida a prime candidate for an economic implosion.

Lionel Lightbourne, Liberty City

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I work in Downtown. There is a chronic population of mentally ill homeless. The streets are free of cardboard beds for a few days and then I see them back with their hospital wristbands. After a few days the shouts, mumbles, and hallucinations begin anew. It is a cycle that is continually repeated. Why does a city of our global reach treat these people like kitchen sponges? Clean them up and then set them out again into the dirt and grime. Miami needs more housing and programs for the mentally ill homeless. It costs less than what is being done now. Other cities and countries have proven that housing works. It benefits everyone — the homeless, the businesses that have to clean up urine and human feces from their doorways, and the tourist that walk the gauntlet of insane panhandlers.

Raquel Reyes, Miami

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Homelessness is an unfortunate situation; but not hopeless. ... This is a problem because the mentally ill population is traditionally underserved and often shunned by society. The solutions include increased public education to raise awareness regarding mental health and appropriate treatment /residential housing for the hundreds of thousands of individuals who suffer with mental illness.

Pat Rivera, Miami

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