The South Beach Compassionate Program for Vagrants

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“This is their home”

14 October 2015

By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR

Only a few tourists, residents and businessmen have complained about the South Beach Compassionate Program for Vagrants established by Mayor Philip Levine, Commissioner Michael Grieco, Police Chief Daniel Oates, Homeless Outreach Services, and the ACLU.

No longer are the involuntary homeless and voluntary vagrants periodically swept off the streets like so much trash. As a police officer explained the program to an Allied Security officer when he caught him following instructions to not allow vagrants to sleep in Lincoln Park in front of the new symphony hall, “Let them sleep here. This is their home.”

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Since then, security officers have little to do in the new park, and one of them was observed sleeping there himself, not to mention an overworked parks department employee who regularly retires there on a hot day.

Security officers have frequently complained about the leniency of police and code enforcement officers. The word is that Allied Security’s contract will soon be terminated.

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A meeting on homeless issues was called by Commissioner Grieco was held last week at the Lincoln Road Community Church. Chief Oates was there along with the minister and few residents and business owners.

A disgruntled resident said cops should shake down known criminals, to which the chief and the commissioner shook heads and rolled eyeballs. Commissioner Grieco is a criminal defense attorney, just the kind of attorney city officials may need in the event of yet another wave of F.B.I. busts. I have urged the commission to hire Bruce Cutler as city attorney, but my suggestion was ignored.

A restaurateur extolled the new police procedure for dealing with complaints about unseemly behavior of vagrants, many of whom camp in Lummus Park across from the beach’s famous Art Deco buildings, where tourists love to dine at the sidewalk cafes. Many of the vagrants in the park are ruffians as is evident to anyone who listens to them converse. Not only do they panhandle, loll around and talk tough: I saw one man expose himself and urinate towards restaurant guests. Can anyone guilty of not supporting him blame him?

The cops are good about responding to complaints, but colorful behavior should be protected. Instead of insisting on a description as to whether the unwanted person is black or white, now all sorts of details must be taken down by the police or dispatcher, such as the color and type of clothes, the color of eyes and hair, and so on. By the time all that is recalled, if the complainant is Sherlock Holmes and can recall it, the undesirable person is long gone, and compassion is served.

The minister gave a heartwarming speech about how he came down to South Beach to serve the homeless people. He would be out of a job if there were none to serve.

The officials were careful to mention that Miami Beach has far less vagrancy than other cities. That certainly is true: Los Angeles County has 44,000 homeless, and huge camps can be found on city streets.

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Indeed, Miami Beach should strive to be more compassionate. The city should provide a big camping ground for hoboes, homeless, and vagrants in the big park the mayor would like to replace the parking lot behind the convention center with. Our mayor is a compassionate wealthy man as can be seen by the nice woman who has been living for months by the fence at his office building. City hall and the homeless service office are within eyeshot of that parking lot.

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Anyone without a permanent place of residence should be able to obtain a special money card that he could insert into vending machines at the new park and get so many sandwiches and drinks every day.

Another compassionate step that should be taken in the mayor’s new homeless park: provide a daily ration of alcoholic beverages. This counter-intuitive approach has been taken by innovative churches bent on reducing homelessness.

Now it might be said that nobody wants to live in parks and on streets. That is not true in every instance. In any event, the City of Miami Beach should continue to expand its housing program for people who want to be formerly homeless. At least half the population should be on the dole to one extent or another. The best solution would be a guaranteed minimum income of $12,000 per year for every adult whether they work or not. That will reduce the competition for higher incomes so more people can get rich.


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