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Miami Beach passes ordinance to arrest homeless people who sleep outside, decline shelter

Local 10 WPLG

By Christina Vazquez

This article originally appeared on

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The Miami Beach City Commission passed a new ordinance Wednesday that would amend the city’s ban on camping and allow police to arrest homeless people who sleep outside and refuse shelter.

The vote was passed 4-to-3 to revise the “camping” ban.

Miami Beach already had a ban on outdoor sleeping, but that ordinance required authorities to give people a warning before giving them an opportunity to relocate.

The newly passed ordinance eliminates the warning provision.

Miami Beach commissioners heard from Tracy Slavens, a board member for the women and children shelter Lotus House, who shared her sympathy for homeless people who have criminal records.

“With a criminal record, it makes it very hard for them to get jobs or rent an apartment,” said Slavens.

Local leaders also heard from Rachel Prestipino, vice president of Policy and Community Engagement of Catalyst Miami, who said the new law would “criminalize” homeless people.

“An item that would criminalize sleeping outdoors, which they are referring to in the ordinance as camping, we feel like this criminalizes homelessness,” she said. “We know there are no shelters in Miami Beach and limited shelter capacity in Miami-Dade overall.”

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.

On Wednesday, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Alex J. Fernandez and Steven Meiner were in favor of the new ordinance.

“We have individuals living on the streets exposed to illness, crime and rape,” said Fernandez. “We need to make sure our streets are free of urine.”

“If you refuse to accept shelter, you are living in our parks, and you refuse to leave, we will make an arrest,” said Rosen Gonzalez.

“This is for people we see having sex outside, masturbating and refusing services,” she added. “This is a compassionate way of removing and reclaiming the public safe that are no longer safe.”

“We are a city of laws and are trying to help people,” said Meiner.

Miami Beach Commissioners Ricky Arriola, David Richardson and Laura Dominguez were against the item.

“Arresting people for being homeless is not a solution,” said Arriola. “Being homeless is not a crime and if a crime is committed, we already have laws that address that.”

“Police already have tools for criminal behavior, so I don’t think it’s necessary at this time,” said Dominguez.

The Miami Beach camping ordinance is modeled on one out of Orlando, which years ago, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld.


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