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Miami Doesn’t Spend A Dime For Homeless

January 5, 1986

MIAMI (AP) _ Miami’s care for the homeless is ″negligible,″ according to a soon-to-be released report that says the city does less for its street people than any other major metropolitan area in the country.

Miami has an estimated 8,000 homeless people, and yet the city does not spend a dime for their care or shelter, according to a study by the National Coalition for the Homeless that will be published in two weeks. The Miami Herald reported on the study Sunday.

The coalition report, researched in September, said all 695 beds at homeless shelters in Miami are provided by private, non-profit agencies or religious groups. Most are filled to overflowing.

Most other big cities with large homeless populations do spend public money for the homeless, according to the New York City-based coalition.

New York, with 60,000 homeless, spends $200 million annually. Philadelphia, with 8,000 street people, spends $14 million, the coalition said.

Even cities smaller than Miami allocate some money. Phoenix, Ariz., and Sacramento, Calif., each spend $1 million, Cincinnati spends $500,000 and Columbus, Ohio, spends $125,000.

″Nowhere is the negligence as evident as in Miami, a prosperous city where 8,000 homeless live,″ coalition co-director Cynthia Bogner wrote in a preliminary draft of the report.

″There’s no doubt that the homeless issue gets more attention in the colder parts of the country,″ said Bill Powell, commander of the Salvation Army in Miami. ″Sometimes the laid-back attitude of Miami overflows into its social conscience.″

Miami City Manager Cesar Odio said Saturday that the responsibility for the city’s social services has long since been handed over to Metro-Dade, the county government. But Metro-Dade also does not spend any money on the homeless.

″It is not a responsibility for the city of Miami,″ Odio said. ″We don’t have any money for that. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to look the other way. We do worry about the homeless, but we don’t have any money to take care of them.″

Mel Adams, director of Metro-Dade’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, said local governments can’t be expected to provide services for the homeless in an age of tight budgets and federal cutbacks.

″It’s unrealistic to expect Miami or Dade County to take up a program that has always been funded by the fedeal government,″ Adams said. ″We’re basically at the limit in what we can raise in taxes. Without an additional source of income, we’ll have to cut existing services that help the poor and needy.″

″No level of government had done very much to help the homeless in Miami,″ said Ms. Bogner. ″The problem in Miami is fairly typical, but the response is bad. There hasn’t been any.″

The report cited several major problems in Miami:

-A lack of low-income and affordable housing. There is a waiting list of 15,000 for Miami’s 6,000 public housing units. The wait can last for 25 years.

-An increase in the refugee population. Refugees from foreign countries are given priority for housing over local street people, the coalition said.

-Release of mental patients from institutions. In 1970, Florida had 9,500 mental patients in institutions. By 1985, the number had dropped to 3,412.

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