Letters to the Editor

Miami plays major role in helping homeless

Re the May 14 story Feud over Miami homeless leads to creation of “poop map”: About 1,300 people have gone through a program that affords each homeless person the opportunity — not a mandate because of the Pottinger agreement — to receive a full range of services. These include healthcare, dental care, library use and computers, disability applications, kennel services and, of course, three hot meals, a cot and a hot shower. The program is totally funded by the city of Miami.

This program is set to expire in August. The city has asked Miami-Dade County to fund this program, now approximately $750,000 a year. The program has a success rate of up to 50 percent.

The number of chronic homeless is identical to the number in 2009 when the Homeless Trust budget was $22 million. Today, that budget is approximately $53.5 million.

The “housing first” model is not the universal solution for chronic homeless. Some are simply not prepared to be handed a key and told that they are no longer homeless. The chronic homeless suffer from drug addiction, alcohol abuse or mental-health issues. The city program is that hybrid that takes off the street a person who has been there for a protracted period and introduces them to a continuum of care.

The “poop map,” a sorry result of more than 600 homeless in Miami, is reality but a distraction, and a real disadvantage to downtown merchants. The Downtown Development Authority has agreed to operate mobile bathrooms (hiring attendants to clean and monitor), which is being done in San Francisco. However, we should not be the entity to purchase them. We do not have the budget for this, our annual ad valorem budget is $5 million a year. Instead, the Trust should follow its mandate with its $53.5 million annual budget.

If this program goes away the number of homeless in the city will increase from 600 to 715. The county has agreed at the committee level to bring up funding the program at the next commission meeting. As for other entities, we want to be partners — we just need an equitable partnership.

Marc Sarnoff, commissioner,

District 2, Miami