Miami-Dade County

Miami’s homeless stripped of some rights as judge accepts settlement

U.S. Judge Federico Moreno on Friday approved changes that will strip the homeless of some of the life-sustaining rights they were granted through a historic settlement reached in Miami almost two decades ago.

Police will now be able to stop homeless people from building fires in parks to cook, or from building makeshift tents to sleep in. The homeless can still sleep on sidewalks, but not if they block the path of pedestrians.

If homeless people are within a quarter-mile of a public restroom, they can no longer expose themselves to urinate or to clean. And convicted sex offenders who are homeless will no longer receive the same life-sustaining benefits as other homeless people.

Moreno’s approval followed a vote in January by Miami city commissioners to go along with the agreement worked out between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The city went to court last summer seeking changes to the 16-year-old Pottinger agreement that was reached after a group of homeless men sued in federal court claiming they were tired of being continually harassed and arrested by Miami police.

The city argued the rules under Pottinger were antiquated because downtown’s demographics had changed substantially over the past two decades. The population has doubled to more than 70,000, restaurants and cultural venues are flourishing, and the remaining homeless are now a constant bother to patrons and condo owners.

The ACLU objected to the positions, saying despite the demographic shift, nothing has changed for the 500 or so chronically homeless that continue to call downtown Miami’s streets their home.

The two sides reached agreement in December. Miami city commissioners approved it in January and Moreno accepted the settlement Friday.