Miami seeks to move homeless out of downtown parking lots
By Deserae del Campo
To protect parking patrons, the Miami Parking Authority and the City of Miami plan to work together in a pilot program to relocate homeless persons from parking lots in downtown Miami's club district into city shelters.
In a board meeting last week, authority members voted to fund a joint six-month pilot program with the city's Office of Homeless Programs for $25,000.
The money will pay an extra team that will patrol specified lots downtown and pick up the homeless at night "when they are at their most vulnerable," said David Rosemond, director of the city's Neighborhood Enhancement Team offices.
The outreach team will patrol parking lots in the club district and other downtown parking lots.
The team will direct homeless people to city shelters where they can stay, such as the Salvation Army, the Homeless Assistance Center and other agencies, Mr. Rosemond said.
The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust calculated in July that 509 homeless people were in downtown between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The parking authority owns club district lots and others downtown and operates them 24 hours a day.
"We recognized our patrons' needs to park and walk to their destination without being panhandled or frightened," said Fred Bredemeyer, the authority's deputy executive director of operations.
"Parking facilities in areas of the city where the homeless tend to congregate are especially affected," he said. "For example, last year the Miami Parking Authority opened three newly constructed parking lots under Interstate 395.
"The Miami Parking Authority invested $1.9 million in this area to provide well-lit and secure parking facilities," Mr. Bredemeyer he said. "The homeless issue in this area has spilled over into our lots and we see controlling it as a matter of protecting our investment."
The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust estimates 2,833 homeless people live in Miami's shelters and 2,182 more live on its streets.
Records show that a year ago the parking board voted to approve the pilot program that would expand the hours of an additional homeless outreach team to patrol downtown parking lots, but the agreement was never executed.
The authority is taking a second opportunity to start the program with the city.
The authority has "a very good working relationship with the city in general and this department [the Office of Homeless Programs] specifically," Mr. Bredemeyer said. "We are confident the program will be a success and that the measurable objectives will be obtained."
The program expects to assist about 750 homeless persons downtown and in the entertainment district.
The board amended the agreement last week to include its request to define the problem areas as well as the specific hours of operation the new team will be working.