The fight over how to help Miami's downtown homeless population has already devolved into poop maps, feces videos, and ugly words between the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Homeless Trust. At issue: Who should pay for more toilets downtown for transients?
Tomorrow, that fight will reignite. The DDA plans to flood the county commission meeting with supporters in bright-orange shirts as the commission discusses Mayor Tomás Regalado's plan to invest $500,000 in a pilot program for Pit Stop, a type of mobile toilet.
Commissioners will also discuss whether to tie the Homeless Trust's funding to similar ideas.
On the city side, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff says the ongoing dispute over feces on downtown streets should push his county counterparts to find new solutions.
“For ten years, we’ve been doing the exact same thing and expected a different result,” he tells New Times. “We need a different modality. It’s the city’s responsibility to find funding and determine outcomes.”
The fight between the DDA and the trust dates back to earlier this year, when the DDA created a "poop map" showing all the places downtown where human feces had been found recently.
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A local businessman then began circulating a video that showed excrement on Miami streets. The goal of the two campaigns: Pressure the Homeless Trust to fund more toilets downtown.
But Homeless Trust president Ron Book refused. His organization's goal, he said, was transitioning homeless off the streets; providing restrooms wasn't in his bailiwick. "We are not going to be putting toilets or showers in downtown Miami, which we believe serves to deter getting the chronic homeless, off the streets," Book told New Times. "We’ve looked at this several times over the last ten to 12 years, and we are just not doing it."
Tomorrow the issue will come to head again as the City of Miami, the DDA, residents, and business owners battle the Homeless Trust at the Board of County Commission meeting. The commission could vote on whether to direct the Homeless Trust to use funding toward the toilet issue.
Sarnoff hopes his county colleagues are open to the idea. “The Homeless Trust has done some great things, like taking a majority of the population off the streets,” he says. "But there are still people out there who call a concrete sidewalk home.”