Gabriela Danger | Contributing Writer
This past week, the city of Miami Beach has been working on passing a new ordinance meant to deal with homelessness in the area, but has drummed up some controversy as well. With roughly 600 homeless individuals occupying Miami and 200 living in Miami Beach, many can agree that something should be done to help them.
The ordinance is part of a “no camping” initiative, stipulating that if someone who is homeless is seen sleeping outside and declines shelter by a police officer, that officer may arrest them.
The ordinance has many supporters, and it passed the initial discussion with a 4-3 vote on Sept. 13. Talks are still occurring and will resume on Oct. 18.
Proponents say that since there are no homeless shelters in Miami Beach itself, they would be willing to bus the homeless up to a shelter in another area. This more widespread acceptance of shelter among the homeless, they say, would help to solve the issue of homelessness in Miami Beach.
However, this ordinance has many critics as well. Those advocating for the homeless are very against it, saying that such a rule would be unproductive, rather increasing the issue than reducing it.
Another main argument against this ordinance was said in a statement to Local 10 by David Peery, executive director at the Miami Dade Coalition to Advance Racial Equity.
Peery said that it would take up too much police effort, taking away from managing actual crimes and offenses. He also mentioned that it would “make it harder for them to escape the cycle of homelessness” because they would have criminal charges and also come right back to Miami Beach after leaving the shelter.
With valid arguments and intentions on both sides of the issue, FIU students give their opinions on the topic.
Felipe Posada, an undergraduate sophomore in the FIU Honors College majoring in political science, who is passionate about human rights, said,
“I think this ordinance is the commissioner’s way of keeping Miami Beach a tourist destination. Many people don’t like seeing homeless people as they find them dirty and/or dangerous and herding them all into housing places would, as they see it, keep Miami Beach’s image. However, it’s only addressing the symptom of an issue that has plagued Miami Beach for a long time which is affordable housing.”
For many years, safe and affordable housing has been hard to come by in Miami Beach. As a high-demand and often affluent area, many residents have been having an increasingly difficult time keeping up with its changing demographic and financial requirements.
“Everything in Miami Beach is extremely expensive, making it extremely difficult or nearly impossible for someone falling on hard times to keep housing in the city.”
Posada also added that many of the shelters the commissioners mean are temporary.
“Meaning it’s only a matter of time until they’re back on the streets. In addition, many shelters have certain requirements and rules that might make it so even certain homeless people can’t stay there since it would be potentially more harmful for the homeless person to stay there than on the street; I’m mostly addressing homeless people who are LGBTQ+.”
FIU undergraduate sophomore and the Under Secretary General of Crisis for FIU Model United Nations, Alexandria Cerini, shares her opinion as well.
“While I understand the theory behind [the ordinance], I don’t think it should be implemented unless they have already established homeless shelters with enough room for the people being taken there in Miami Beach,” said Cerini.
“It could [help] if the police actually enforce it, but the homeless people [will] just then return to the streets anyway, after they are released from the shelters because they have nowhere else to go,” Cerini added when asked about any merit to the ordinance.
Both students interviewed were also asked if they had any negative experiences or felt unsafe when they encountered homeless individuals in the Miami Beach area, and both denied having any real issues.
So it seems that overall, FIU students seem to be against this ordinance being fully passed. Both sides of this issue agree that homelessness is a problem, but have very different ways of addressing it. With talks for this ordinance resuming in mid-October, this is clearly a complex issue that will have a longstanding impact on our community.