The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners is considering a new plan that would move homeless people into camps on a small island off the city’s Atlantic Coast.
Virginia Key, home to bike trails and a sewage plant, is the newest location being weighed for city-sponsored homeless encampments. The Board of County Commissioners will be discussing the overall homeless movement plan on Thursday.
The Virginia Key proposal offers space for up to nine large tents, each of which could house 22 people. Each tent would provide air conditioning, bathrooms and showers for occupants. The current maximum plan would build seven out of nine tents with 154 rooms at an estimated cost of $1.6 million.
Four other locations are being mulled for a city-sponsored “transition zone” containing temporary shelters and access to social services. These locations include a state-owned lot under Interstate 95, a city-owned lot under I-95, unused space at 2451 NW 7th Ave, and a property at the corner of NW 6th Ave. and 6th Street.
Regardless of the location chosen, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, which operates a homeless hotline and shelter in the city, will be unable to support the encampment because it does not adhere to federal guidelines that espouse a “housing-first” philosophy.
Chairman Ron Book explained to the Miami Herald that “The Trust cannot support or fund any homeless encampment without jeopardizing our programs and funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.”
Opponents of the Virginia Key site include bikers and naturalists who currently use the island, as well as some officials.
Vinson Richter, a member of Miami’s advisory board for the island, told the newspaper that “If they place [the homeless] on Virginia Key, it’s out of sight, out of mind, and instead of temporary it could end up being forever.”