Sep 11, 2023 - News

Miami Beach camping ordinance would crack down on homeless population

Outreach workers counted the local homeless population in August. Photo: Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Miami Beach city commissioners vote Wednesday on an ordinance that would amend the city's ban on camping, empowering police to arrest homeless people.

What's happening: It's already illegal to sleep outdoors in public places if a person has a bedroll or cardboard indicating they didn't just happen to fall asleep and are "camping."

  • The current law calls for violators to vacate the area if asked by police, and provides that they can be arrested if they refuse.
  • The proposed ordinance removes the option to vacate but requires that a person with nowhere else to go be offered a spot in a shelter or help, such as reuniting with family or friends, before an officer can make an arrest.
  • Offenses would be punishable by a fine up to $500 and/or 60 days in jail.

Why it matters: The city of Miami Beach had 152 unsheltered homeless people on the streets this August, per the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, while the county had 3,720 both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people.

  • The average monthly rent in Miami Beach was $2,861 as of July, according to RentCafe.

Driving the news: Miami Beach commissioners directed the ordinance be drafted during a July meeting.

  • During that meeting, Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez described complaints she'd received about a homeless man masturbating and a couple having sex in front of children in Collins Park, the Miami Herald reported.

The other side: "It is not a crime to be poor and unable to afford a home," David Peery, chair of the Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity (MCARE), said in an emailed action alert opposing the ordinance.

  • He said homeless people would effectively be "deported" to Miami, where shelter beds are located.
  • "Given that Miami's homeless population is 60 percent Black, this ordinance will create a new Jim Crow," he said.

Between the lines: In anticipation of legal challenges, the proposed ordinance was written to mimic a camping ban in Orlando that has been upheld by a federal appeals court.

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