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Miami Seeks to Rescind Rights of the Homeless

By D. Kevin McNeir

In August 2012, The Miami Times published a front page story that tackled the issue of hunger, poverty and homelessness in Miami. At that time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 46.2M U.S. citizens had slipped into poverty — the largest number in the Bureau’s 52 years of publishing statistics. Then, as now, Blacks, senior citizens and children were disproportionately represented and were the most in need. Blacks seeking food from Feeding South Florida [FSF] accounted for 61.2 percent of FSF’s clients — twice as much as Hispanics (30.4 percent) with whites only making up 6.6 percent.

The situation grew more grave, with SFS seeing a 30 percent jump in the number of clients it served in the four-county South Florida region, totaling over one million, according to agency’s director of advancement, Lisa Stoch.
But these troubling statistics, where hunger is often directly related to homelessness, have not stopped the recent move by the City of Miami to remove 500 chronically-homeless people who “live” in the City’s downtown corridor.
In an act that was first initiated last April, City leaders and members of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority [DDA] are asking a federal court to modify a long-standing ruling that gives the homeless the right to conduct “life-sustaining” acts — including lighting cooking fires in public parks, sleeping on sidewalks and urinating in public – without getting arrested.

Now, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has thrown his weight behind the efforts of the City and the DDA. Together, they are asking the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust to spend up to $13M on hundreds of new beds. But what is the real motivation?

Gimenez says the effort is about more than just sprucing up a now-revitalized Biscayne Boulevard and Flagler Street area, thus making it more appealing for the increased number of tourists that are coming to Miami.
“It’s actually a moral issue — nobody should be sleeping in the streets of Miami,” he said.

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