Dear Members and Advocates,
The question of what to do with registrants legislated into homelessness is about to become more interesting. This morning, at the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners Meeting, the commissioners heard a first reading of a proposed amendment to an “overnight camping” ordinance that prohibits overnight camping on public property. Overnight camping on public property (ie: homelessness) is prohibited, and after being told to leave, police can arrest someone for trespassing if they stay. However, as it currently reads, the ordinance requires police to offer the individual assistance by means of a homeless shelter before they can arrest them. Herein lies the interesting part… homeless shelters don’t take sex offenders. This created an obstacle to the police department’s ability to arrest the homeless sex offenders at the encampment by the tracks.
To circumvent this safeguard, Miami-Dade commissioners are seeking to remove the requirement homeless be offered shelter when it comes to sex offenders, and enable them to arrest them immediately. Why is arresting homeless sex offenders such a priority in Miami-Dade? To answer that question, we need to look back a few years…
After the encampments at the Julia Tuttle, Shorecrest and River Park Trailer Park were closed down, there were virtually no housing options available to registered sex offenders in Miami-Dade, so police and probation began directing them to a warehouse district near Hialeah. Thinking it’d be tucked away along railroad tracks and businesses that close at night, it seemed like a perfect solution. But as the encampment swelled to over 250 people, business owners began to complain.
Enter journalist Isabella Gomes and the Miami New Times… Ms. Gomes brought the encampment at the tracks to the forefront, just as former New Times writer Isaiah Thomas did in 2007 at the Julia Tuttle. The idea of over two hundred individuals living outdoors without running water or toilets didn’t seem like a good “public safety” plan to her. The business owners in the neighborhood apparently didn’t think so either. Lending a journalistic voice to the homeless and business owners, she brought media attention to the tracks and other news outlets soon followed.
Seizing the opportunity to take the spotlight, Ron Book, chair of the Miami Homeless Trust (and ironically the pioneer of the residency restrictions that caused the homelessness to begin with) visited the encampment, declaring it to be a “sanitation and security nightmare.” He claimed to have a plan to finally find housing for the sex offenders.
That was August… Fast forward three months and one hurricane later – nothing has been done. The Homeless Trust, police and County administrators have not been able to find a compliant housing solution for these individuals, so now they came up with another housing plan. Put them in Jail.
The irony is; the people who are at the tracks are the ones who are compliant with the law! They are going where their probation officers sent them or to the only place they can live compliantly. It’s not their preference to live outdoors, among warehouses, without bathrooms or shelter. If the County, in over three months, with all its resources, couldn’t find complaint solutions in light of the 2500-foot exclusion zone – these people were surely not going to.
So, what can they do? If they leave they get arrested for violating the SORR. If they stay they get arrested for trespassing. The combination of the two ordinances creates a paradoxical situation where they cannot escape arrest. At least if they abscond, the police need to find them first.
Fortunately, the New Times hasn’t let the story fall off the radar. Last month, they wrote “A Month After Irma, Miami-Dade’s Sex Offender Camp Is Still There”, and today, “Miami-Dade Commissioners Want Cops to Arrest Homeless Sex Offenders on Sight.” Our hope is that other news outlets pick up on the story and the Judge in Does v. Miami-Dade (the ACLU lawsuit challenging the residency restriction) will see how blatantly insane and punitive this exclusion zone ordinance has become. Trial in that case is scheduled to commence during the two-week trial period beginning March 19, 2018.
We are still awaiting an order in the Internet Identifier hearing. As soon as it’s issued, we will announce the decision on our site. Also, stay tuned for an update on a coordinated (since it’s a Federal, nationwide scheme it will be in conjunction with other advocacy groups) game plan to challenge the IMLs new passport identifier.
The Florida Action Committee
NEW MEMBER ORIENTATION CALL THU NOV 9 AT 8:00 PM – All interested members are encouraged to call into the meeting to ask questions about the FAC organization, or share their experiences, concerns, and suggestions. Special VOLUNTEER SIGN-UP opportunities will be discussed. Everyone Welcome to Join Us!
SOME HEADLINES FROM THIS WEEK
In anticipation of tomorrow’s meeting, the Florida Action Committee has sent a letter to the Miami-Dade County Commissioners. The Commission is considering cutting out a safeguard that helped prevent homeless from winding up in jail, rather than a homeless shelter, as…
TALLAHASSEE. For decades, sex has been a tool and a toy for the politically powerful in the male-dominated world of politics in Florida’s capital. Now it’s a weapon. Allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and infidelity among the state’s legislators flew…
In the days of the Third Reich, the Nazis stamped the passports of Jews with a conspicuous “J”. The “Judenstempel” (Jew Stamp), was used by the Nazi German authorities identify those of the Jewish faith. Through the identifier,…
Reading this story on ThinkProgress.org, you almost forget they are talking about human lives. The CEO of Geo Group, the Florida-based private prison company that operates facilities across the US, including the Florida Civil Commitment Center for Civilly Committed…