Miami Considers Jailing Homeless People For Eating, Sleeping In Public
By Scott Keyes
July 16, 2013
Being poor could soon be a crime in the city of Miami.
As though life weren’t already difficult enough for people who can’t afford regular housing, they could soon find themselves thrown in jail and their possessions confiscated if they’re caught engaging in certain everyday activities in public.
Before the late 1990s, Miami police frequently arrested homeless people for such “crimes” as sleeping on park benches, eating on sidewalks, or congregating in public places.
But in 1998, the city of Miami came to a landmark agreement, known as Pottinger v. City of Miami, whereby police officers were instructed not to arrest homeless people they caught committing minor “quality of life” offenses, but instead offer them a bed in a nearby homeless shelter. This new emphasis on providing homeless people with housing has been remarkably successful. In the 15 years since Pottinger, the number of people living on the streets has dropped from approximately 6,000 to 351, largely due to more shelters and support.
Despite the program’s success, one Miami City Commissioner wants to back out of the deal and resume arresting homeless people for living on the streets.