Miami-Dade County

Miami homeless law set for final vote Thursday

Miami Police officer James Bernat, the department’s Homeless Coordinator, asks a homeless man in downtown Miami on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, if he would like to move to a shelter as Miami’s police outreach team works with the homeless by offering shelter in the Mat Program.
Miami Police officer James Bernat, the department’s Homeless Coordinator, asks a homeless man in downtown Miami on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, if he would like to move to a shelter as Miami’s police outreach team works with the homeless by offering shelter in the Mat Program. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

A law that homeless advocates say would violate a longstanding pact between the city of Miami and its homeless is expected to go to a vote by the City Commission on Thursday.

The “camping prohibition” law, proposed by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, would make it illegal to erect tents and place cooking equipment and cots on public property, like sidewalks. More controversially, the law as it was composed last month when it received tentative approval would also create potential jail time for placing everyday items like blankets, pillows and sleeping bags on public property.

Sarnoff recently announced that he would remove the more typical, everyday items like pillows from the legislation after his proposal drew intense criticism from homeless groups, including the publicly funded Miami-Dade Homeless Trust. Sarnoff says his concerns are about safety, and giving police broader authority to encourage the city’s roughly 600 homeless to leave the streets and enter a temporary shelter program at Camillus House in Overtown.

But advocacy organizations say the law still threatens to undercut the Pottinger Agreement, a 1998 settlement to a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the city’s homeless. The agreement, which was recently amended to accommodate Camillus House’s temporary shelter program, gives the homeless the right to engage in life-sustaining activities, and allows police to arrest them only after first offering an available shelter bed or temporary mat.

If you go

The Miami City Commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments