Dear Members and Advocates,

For those following our site, you know that one of our biggest concerns is homelessness. Policies that legislate people into homelessness make no sense and have been proven to be counter-productive. Yet some individuals are so intent on punishing anyone labeled a “sex offender” they lose sight of reality and humanity.

For more than a decade we’ve been advocating against Sex Offender Residency Restrictions (SORRs) which create housing exclusion zones around certain landmarks. One of the most glaring examples of the failure and unintended consequences of these SORRs is Miami-Dade County, where there are roughly five hundred people living homeless because of the SORR. That’s a quarter of the entire population of people required to register in that County who are forced to live on the streets at night because of an ordinance that has proven ineffective.

To make matters worse and kick a population that’s already down, Miami-Dade keeps passing new laws to further squeeze these people. For example; a couple of years ago, the County passed the “Bovo Amendment” (Ord. 21-286) which enabled police to arrest homeless registrants on site (yes, it expressly makes an exception for people required to register as sex offenders). The County used this law to disband encampments of registrants from the very limited pockets of land where they are actually able to live. Now comes something even more absurd… Last Thursday, Miami-Dade passed a new ordinance that restricts when and where individuals and organizations can feed the homeless, requires individuals and organizations to obtain permits to feed those in need and limiting an individual or organization to being able to distribute food at that “approved location” only one time per week.

Ironically, late last year during “Homeless Awareness Week” Miami-Dade chose to evict the encampment of homeless registrants from the location they had been living (see: https://www.local10.com/news/2019/11/19/miami-dade-county-closing-down-homeless-camp-while-promoting-awareness-week/) and now this year, in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Miami-Dade wants to cut off this lifeline.

It’s truly sick. The fact that this situation has been allowed to persist for more than a dozen years is unconscionable.

Perhaps no more glaring an example of how these “squeezes” are impacting the homeless registrant population in Miami-Dade is the fact that two of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Miami-Dade SORR died during the pendency of the case. Yes, DIED! Two men out of a handful of plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the harmful ordinance actually died while waiting for a lawsuit they hoped would offer them relief. You’d think that illustration alone would be enough to prove the Plaintiff’s point, but no… the case continues.

There is one person who has been the most outspoken advocate behind the SORR, the Bovo Amendment and now this new restriction and we all know who that person is. It’s someone whose personal animus for people on the registry is so blatant and his behavior so venomous that you have to wonder how stupid the legislators in Miami-Dade are to allow him to continue to be the key person in charge of “helping” the homeless. Stupid or corrupt? (For an overview of how politics work in Miami-Dade County you can visit here).

We always worry when suggesting a hypothesis that it will come off as self-serving or biased, so rather than putting it out there as an FAC opinion, We’ll quote this article from a few months ago that has nothing to do with people required to register as sex offenders or last week’s ordinance and allow you to come to your own conclusions as to how this is allowed to happen. “We wouldn’t be out here if the Homeless Trust, which receives millions of dollars in tax revenue every year, were doing what needs to be done to protect the homeless,” said Henderson “Chairman Ron Book has left our most vulnerable communities out on the streets, without testing them, without giving them a place to shelter, wash and eat. This negligence is putting our entire city at risk in the face of the pandemic.” “Henderson is equally advocating for what he deems unwarranted and exorbitant arrests of homeless people in the county, an activity he believes is directly related to Book’s lobbyist activity on behalf of the for-profit prison company, the GEO group.”

The man referenced in this article is Dr. Armen Henderson, Director of health programs for the Dream Defenders, an organization that has been tirelessly assisting the homeless, advocating for them and getting push back from the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust. Dr. Henderson himself was “suspected” by Miami Police of “dumping trash” which turned out to be actually him loading tents to distribute to the homeless. Nonetheless, he was handcuffed in front of his own home and in front of his wife and two kids.

For years, Pastor Frank Diaz of United We All Can has been delivering food and providing outreach services to the encampment of registered persons who have been shuffled around Miami-Dade County. His is one of the ONLY organizations to service this population which does not have the option to go to a homeless shelter because there are none in Miami-Dade that can take them. For many, his work has been life sustaining. Now, this new ordinance will prevent much of the good work that Pastor Diaz has been doing because, at best, he will only be able to feed this population once a week and at worst, Miami-Dade (which is in the pocket of the individual alluded to above) can unilaterally refuse to issue him a permit to feed those at the encampment in an effort to squeeze these human beings some more.

Dr. Henderson and Pastor Diaz are heroes deserving of our appreciation. I mention them in this week’s Update for two reasons. First, our membership needs to know that there are some good people out there who care about all human beings, and second, because organizations such as Florida Action Committee need to recognize the effort of these individuals and their organizations. Our motto is “With Unity Comes Change” and just like we have to unify amongst ourselves, as an organization we need to align ourselves with other groups in the community that do good things for all humanity.

Very often advocacy feels like a thankless endeavor, so it’s important for Dr. Henderson and Pastor Diaz to know it’s not. If you have a moment, please drop a line to Dream Defenders at [email protected] or United We All Can (https://www.facebook.com/PastorFrankDiaz – I know… facebook) , and let them know why this cause is important to you and how meaningful their work is.

Sincerely,

The Florida Action Committee


Reminders:

Thursday July 2 at 8pm ET- FAC Membership Call with Guest Speaker Carol Nesteikis, co-founder of Legal Reform for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (LRIDD) started in 2015. Dial 319-527-3487.  If unable to connect, text “Call Me” to 319-527-3487.  You will receive a call-back and be connected to the conference.

Tuesday July 7 2:00 pm ET. There are 6 weeks left in the FAMM and Florida Cares Summer Camp taught by Greg and Denise each Tuesday through August 11th aimed at teaching families and directly impacted folks about the legislative process, bills, candidates and about criminal justice reform in Florida so that everyone can be make the most educated and informed decisions in 2020 regarding their incarcerated loved one and advocate for them in the best way possible.   IMPORTANT: You must register for each class and classes are limited so sign up TODAY! ⇢ Link to register for the FAMM & Florida Cares Summer Camp Classes  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Thursday July 9 at 8pm ET- FAC New Member Orientation Call. Dial 319-527-3487.  If unable to connect, text “Call Me” to 319-527-3487.  You will receive a call-back and be connected to the conference.

Saturday July 11 from 11am-1pm ET.  Family Support Session via Zoom (non-registrants only – intended for family members and others with loved ones on the Registry.  Must be FAC member and RSVP to [email protected] to receive Zoom link.

Thursday July 16 at 7:00pm -Clay County FL Member call.  Dial 605-472-5596 and enter access ID 436675.  Your Clay County FAC Coordinators want to hear from you. Discuss the issues, housing, employment, resources and the upcoming elections up in your area.  Get Involved.

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