Before Cleveland homeless individuals settled with the City in 2000, Miami lawyers struck an agreement to step back from the effort to make it illegal to be homeless. Word came out that the current city government is working on ways to get out from under this 1998 settlement. The National Coalition for the Homeless wrote a letter condemning these attempts to scrap the Pottinger settlement.
The National Coalition for the Homeless is very concerned that the City of Miami is working to cancel its agreement with those experiencing homelessness in the Pottinger settlement of 1998. This settlement came about because of the excessive use of police authority to move homeless people out of the public eye. This was callous example of using law enforcement as a substitute for effective social services which builds relationships with those resistant to shelters.
Instead of working to renege on this landmark court settlement, the City should work to assure that no one feels the need to sleep on the streets of Miami. Until the City does not turn one individual away who requests shelter in Miami, it is too early to turn away from the Pottinger settlement. The number of homeless youth, families, personal bankruptcies, and those facing food insecurity are all reported higher in South Florida, which does not seem to be the best time to cancel an agreement with homeless people.
Going back to a failed public policy of arresting homeless people will only jeopardize any progress the City has made in serving those who have been homeless for a long period of time. This policy of arresting and jailing homeless people is expensive and will in the end lengthen the time people spend without housing. The City will eventually pay the additional cost of housing, feeding, providing health care, and behavioral health for these individuals they arrest for purely innocent life sustaining behavior.
We urge the City to commit to social workers, housing and supportive services instead of law enforcement, incarceration and turning on their own citizens.
Director of Community Organizing
National Coalition for the Homeless
NEOCH echoes the thoughts of the National Coalition.
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