By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
That's pretty much the consensus among the downtrodden, I discover, after ditching the cardboard sign. News of the expanded zone is like a fresh picking of an old scab. Last year, after releasing a much-disputed study claiming that Miamians give panhandlers $40 million a year, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust planted garish Romero Britto-painted coin meters around town to deter people from giving money directly to beggars. Each meter cost $1,000 to install, and there are dozens. "They gotta find a way to line their pockets, so they want all the money to go through them," grumbles Henry Dunn, a 63-year-old panhandler sporting a Hemingwayesque white beard and, somewhat ironically, a Miami Heat hat. He's hanging around a county-run lot across from Bayside Marketplace, brazenly trying to poach change or parking stubs from drivers. He hasn't been arrested since cops launched enforcement operation "Get It Done" before the Heat's home opener, he says, "but they've had me running and hiding, that's for sure."
Not surprising, most motorists parking their cars aren't heartbroken by the beggars' lack of legal territory. "About time," shoots Gabriela Martinez, a Miami Beach resident sojourning to the Gap. "They scare the tourists."
"It's money-making Miami at work," white-haired George Siegel says with a neutral shrug. "Homeless people aren't exactly the most powerful contingent in the world."
But at least one citizen misses the hustling hordes that once worked this parking lot. A Cadillac Escalade driver named Fernando used to save a few bucks by buying his parking stub from panhandlers who resold old ones. "Yeah, where they at?" he asks when I broach the subject of the missing beggars. I point him toward the bearded Dunn, who is scouring the ground for cigarette butts in the distance.
As I trudge far away from the arena and into the barren yes-panhandling zone to get my car, I pass Kimbo slouching against a chainlink fence. Not willing to spend the evening dodging police, he's resigned to waiting for dinnertime at a nearby shelter. I give him my 75 cents.