On Friday, the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust sent out a self-congratulatory press release announcing it had finally shut down the sex offender shantytown under the Julia Tuttle bridge.
"From the very first report of people moving in under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, the men and women of The Homeless Trust had been going there," chairman Ron Book said. "Today we see the fruits of their hard work."
But the next day, 16 of those sex offenders were back out on the street again, evicted from the Homestead hotel that had housed them since February. The reason? The deal the Trust struck with the hotel to put up the offenders hadn't been cleared by its corporate office. Oops!
On March 2, Book invited TV cameras and local reporters to come under the bridge as the Trust made a big show of tearing down the makeshift homes that had risen there for 13 years. Using taxpayer money, the Trust would move the nearly 100 sex offenders living there to county hotels and apartments and pay for their leases for six months. Book boasted the whole colony would be scrapped by the end of the month.
At the time, several advocates were dubious. Randy Young, the chairman of Habitat for Sex Offenders, an organization that finds affordable housing to sex offenders, predicted the colony would just return in some other form soon after. "It's all smoke and mirrors," he told Riptide then.
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In April, Riptide noticed there were still at least 13 registered sex offenders living under the bridge in their colorful trailers. Confronted, Book told us that they were going to miss their self-imposed one-month deadline because finding landlords willing to rent to offenders was proving more difficult than they previously thought. But then on Friday, the trust finally announced via press release it had placed the last of the sex offenders. "We're all relieved that the Julia Tuttle situation is over," executive director David Raymond said.
Except one of the hotels where the trust put up offenders since February, the Blue Lagoon near Miami International Airport, kicked out 16 of them the next day. The hotel manager hadn't cleared the contract he signed with the trust with his corporate office, Homestead Studio Suites, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday. Those 16 weren't the only offenders kicked out. Other Julia Tuttle refugees who weren't on probation also got the boot, though it's unclear how many.
Some of those evicted were back roaming the streets, as Young predicted back in March, while the Herald reported others slept in the parking lot at their probation offices at Northwest 27th Avenue and 79th Street.
Book said the Trust would fight the eviction, but the area under the bridge would stay out of limit. "If they go back to the bridge they will be trespassers and subject to arrest.''