Miami goes to court to end homeless treatment rules
Written by Miami Today on May 30, 2018
The City of Miami on Wednesday filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to terminate the Pottinger consent decree, which outlines how the city and the Police Department interact with the homeless.
The landmark decree restricts the city from taking actions in situations such as the observation of a homeless person obstructing a sidewalk, or a homeless person urinating or defecating in public. It also restricts the city from offering shelter beds that are available outside of the City of Miami. No other South Florida municipality faces such restrictions.
“The circumstances have changed and today Pottinger restricts the city from acting in the best interest of homeless persons and residents in general,” said City Manager Emilio Gonzalez. “Without the constraints of Pottinger we can better provide services for the homeless with dignity and compassion.”
The city provides outreach, assessment, placement, information, referral and transportation services to the homeless. In addition, police officers receive training on how to respect the rights of homeless people.
While homelessness exists in many communities including Overtown, East Little Havana, Allapattah and others, it is often associated with downtown Miami.
The homeless population has become more high profile as the downtown population has skyrocketed. In the past two decades, the number of people living in downtown Miami has more than doubled, transforming from a business district to a live, work and play hub of activity.
The Pottinger consent decree is the result of a 1998 settlement agreement in the case of Michael Pottinger, et al. v. City of Miami.
In April, the city commission unanimously adopted a resolution sponsored by Mayor Francis Suarez, Commissioner Joe Carollo and Commissioner Manolo Reyes instructing the city attorney to take any and all action regarding the settlement agreement.
The latest motion asserts that the city has remedied the violation of rights that led to the Pottinger case and the objectives of the Pottinger consent decree have been achieved.
Due to litigation, city officials said no further comment will be made.