• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

City of Miami commission plans ‘transition camp’ for homeless in Virginia Key

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Jul 28, 2022

While the rest of Miami worries about ending up on the streets, the City of Miami has a new solution for the existing homeless population: keep it out of sight and out of your mind!

At today’s (July 28) meeting of the City of Miami Commission, officials will discuss the establishment of city-run “transformation and transition zone” camps for homeless people. A PDF presentation for the discussion, obtained by new times, offers five options for possible campsites. But the “optimal” site for city staff is Virginia Key, a barrier island separated from the rest of the city by a mile of water in Biscayne Bay and a location featured in Jim Carrey’s masterpiece. In 1994. Ace Ventura: animal detective.

Our own Devil’s Island, if you will.

The city has been at odds with Miami’s homeless population for the past year; District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo, in particular, has sponsored several programs aimed at cracking down on homelessness, drawing the ire of homeless advocates.

Last October, commissioners passed an ordinance backed by Carollo banning homeless encampments and ordering police to destroy existing tents and camps around the city, prompting an ongoing lawsuit against the city. Carollo also pushed through a resolution to create an “Adopt-A-Homeless” program to help residents who want to foster adult homeless adults, after many observers thought he was joking.

The “transition camp” is the latest in a chain of solutions for homelessness in the country’s least affordable housing market.

Titled “Ease the Burden, Transition With Dignity,” the presentation prepared by Miami’s Department of Social Services names Virginia Key as the top choice for a camp, citing its isolated location, distance from residential buildings, and lack of plans. of development. for the region.

Virginia Key also happens to be home to historic Virginia Key Beach Park and the Virginia Key Outdoor Center and is one of the few naturally preserved outdoor spaces in the city of Miami.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Esther Alonso, owner and operator of the outdoor center, isn’t crazy about the prospect of a homeless camp in the park.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. It’s one of the most popular parks in the system, and it’s an environmentally sensitive area,” Alonso said. new times, adding that she first heard about the proposal this week. “It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”

The presentation offers four other options for “transformation areas”: fenced land below I-95 at NW 71st Street and NW Fifth Place in Little River; an empty lot at 2451 NW Seventh Ave. in Allapattah; another vacant lot at NW Sixth Avenue and NW Sixth Street in southwest Overtown; and two municipal parking lots – one under the concrete spaghetti strands that dump traffic on and off I-95 downtown, the other under I-95 just west of the Publix in SW Third Avenue and SW Seventh Street.

Shelter options at these potential camps include tiny houses, dormitory tents and Foldum shipping containers – which, the presentation helpfully notes, are “visually less appealing” but “can be painted over to add individuality. “.

Like the shipping container solution, each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, noted in the overview, with shelters like the Tiny Houses having a downside because they “can be perceived as more dwelling. permed”.

Achieved by new times by phone Wednesday, Department of Social Services Director William Porro declined to comment on the topic of discussion.

“Tomorrow we will discuss it publicly,” Porro said.

City Commissioner Ken Russell, whose district includes Virginia Key and who opposed the city’s ban on homeless encampments, says new times that city-run homeless transition camps are the wrong way to end homelessness in Miami.

“By working with the partners we have — nonprofit organizations that are experts and place homeless care as their top priority — we can shelter Miami’s last homeless people,” Russell said. “This idea is a handicap for the city, it’s not in our wheelhouse, and Virginia Key is a nature preserve.”

The presentation of the transition camp is part of an agenda point of discussion and not a resolution, which means that no vote is expected on its contents, but the commissioners could direct the city manager to take action on the point.