The longtime executive director of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust is retiring after a decade of overseeing local services for the county's destitute. During his tenure, David Raymond has spearheaded the development of dozens of shelters with over 7,000 beds throughout the county, leading to a sharp decrease in the number of people without a place to live.
In 2008, a U.S. Conference of Mayors homeless survey found that the city had counted 514 homeless people compared to 613 the prior year. That figure has held steady the past four years. Across the county, the annual average number of homeless people went from 8,000 to 1,000 while Raymond has headed the trust.
An earlier version of this post erroneously reported that Raymond's retirement was connected to a lawsuit alleging he'd helped a construction company rig a bid to win a contract to build 145 units of permanent housing near Homestead.
Back in 2009, a company named Jaxi Builders won a $15 million contract to build the Verde Gardens Complex, which is located on the site of a former air force base. But another firm, Siltek Group Inc., says it actually submitted a better bid.
Oscar Soto, an attorney representing Siltek, alleged in a suit that Raymond pressured officials from Carrfour Supportive Housing -- the non-profit agency in charge of the project - to ignore Siltek's offer, even though it was $2.6 million lower than Jaxi's bid. The trust controlled the project's budget, which consisted of county and federal public housing funds, which gave Raymond heft over who was chosen, Soto said.
But Soto was not able to prove his claims in court; on May 12 last year, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas dismissed the complaint. (The case against Raymond was dismissed in July 2010) Siltek subsequently filed a new lawsuit containing identical allegations, but naming only Carrfour as a plaintiff. That suit remains open.
Officials for Carrfour declined to comment. Homeless Trust Board Chairman Ronald Book said Soto's accusations are absurd.
"Raymond's integrity is unquestioned," says Book, who in his day job is Dade County's most prominent lobbyist. "He is tireless in his work and guides our day-to-day operation with a level of commitment unknown in governmental circles."
There's no timetable yet on hiring a new head for the trust.