Bring Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Homeless

Just keep them out of Coconut Grove

The City of Miami's CHAS, which runs more than 200 pages, adopts the same goals relating to homelessness as the year-old Dade County comprehensive homeless plan. Among those goals, as stated in Miami's CHAS, is the construction over the next three years of at least 750 new "transitional housing" beds, precisely what the Coconut Grove facility expects to provide. The new homeless assistance center will offer 350 emergency beds, not transitional housing.

Coalition staffers say they are discussing the possibility of suing the city for not complying with its CHAS. But officials at the HUD regional headquarters in Jacksonville, the office that oversees Miami, stress that the agency's policy is to leave decisions involving the CHAS to local officials and to encourage the local resolution of disputes. However, HUD has on occasion intervened in other cities where it determined local governments improperly wrote or applied their CHAS. "Because this issue has been raised, our Community Planning and Development [Division] staff is going to look into this issue and is going to be asking questions," says James Walker, a HUD spokesman in Jacksonville. "We're going to see if any processes can be waived or looked into at a higher level. This group [the coalition] can submit its case and write to us, but as of now the city manager has local authority and autonomy."

If the coalition can solve its CHAS problem, it will face another step in the bureaucratic process later this month: zoning hearings, a popular tool to thwart unwanted construction. Again there will be disputes over authority and jurisdiction. Because the coalition will be leasing the Naval Reserve center from the navy, the organization claims the property is exempt from most local zoning laws, although not from building-code standards. Whatever the outcome, both sides claim several legal options and both are bolstered by powerful allies: Supporting the coalition is the U.S. Navy and possibly HUD; the city counts on the energy and influence of some of its most influential citizens. And both vow never to give up. Says Mayor Steve Clark, who refuses any further comment about the Coconut Grove project or the city's homeless policies: "We've done our share.

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