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That coordination already exists, notes Hilda Fernandez, executive director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, but she concedes some police officers may not be aware of all the available resources: "If [dumping] happens, all I can hope is that the police officers who are doing it are doing it because they don't know any better. All they have to do is call an outreach team."
In 1993 county voters approved a one percent restaurant tax to support homeless programs, the first dedicated source of funding for such services in the nation. The county commission then created the Homeless Trust as a quasi-governmental agency to administer those and other funds for programs throughout Miami-Dade. Among those programs are "outreach teams" that provide assessment, referrals, and placement for homeless people. Camillus House South Dade covers all areas south of Kendall Drive, Douglas Gardens Community Mental Health Center serves Miami Beach, the Miami-Dade Department of Human Services provides outreach north of Kendall Drive, and the Miami Homeless Assistance Program handles the City of Miami.
The Homeless Trust, Fernandez says, is on a crusade to educate police departments throughout the county about the outreach teams and the services they provide in their geographical areas. Still Sergeant Kowalski and others believe the City of Miami will remain a target for homeless dumping, thanks to a concentration of services available for people in distress.
Indeed within Miami's city limits are eight emergency-housing facilities. Of the 90 homeless programs providing transitional and permanent housing throughout the county, about 20 are located in the city. In addition there are the various soup kitchens and independent street feeders in the downtown area. As one frustrated Miami police lieutenant puts it: "The City of Miami has become the dumping ground for the homeless and the unwanted. We need another homeless assistance center outside the City of Miami. Is the county going to build one in Coral Gables? How about in Aventura? They won't go there. It's a political issue that city managers and commissioners need to resolve."