Shanty Talk

Shanty Talk
Filed under: News

One should always be wary when city officials declare they are "listening" to the people's problems. Activist Max Rameau knew this on Wednesday, when Miami City Manager Pedro Hernandez journeyed out to Umoja, Rameau's five-week-old shantytown for the homeless in Liberty City.

"I'm here to listen to your problems," Hernandez said around 2:45 p.m., patiently clasping his hands. He cocked his head and assumed a listening pose. He was wearing an Armani watch. Nearby, a homeless man who bore a strong resemblance to Kid Rock (pre-Pamela) slung a blue tarp over a shack and secured it with a stone. It will be the village's final shack — otherwise known as a "pallet condo," because it is composed of wooden pallets. A street-poet-cum-crack-addict named Gypsy Bird has dibs on the unit.

"I respect your position," Hernandez continued. "And your message. I just don't agree with your method of stating your goal."

Rameau's goal: Protest the lack of affordable housing, gentrification, scarce bed space in homeless shelters, and other sundry problems plaguing Miami's poor. Rameau is striving for a parallel city, and he's succeeding: About 35 people — mostly black men — live in the shacks. There's a well-stocked kitchen, a porta-potty, and a cistern shower; some pink and white flowers are blooming in cinder-block planters, a bright spot on the otherwise bleak intersection of NW 62nd Street and 17th Avenue. Police have largely left the shantytown alone, much to Rameau's surprise (he's been a harsh critic of the force for years).

But that hasn't stopped city leaders from trying to talk the homeless out of squatting on the land, which is publicly owned. Hernandez's visit was the first by a real authority figure, said Rameau. And for the activist, it meant one thing. "When are you planning on raiding us?" he asked Hernandez, who didn't answer the question, saying he wanted to assess where the city should next build affordable homes.

"I understand the problem," Hernandez said. "I want to help out."

Hernandez had a few questions for Rameau, as well. Where, he asked, are the homeless in the shantytown from? Liberty City?

The half-dozen homeless who had clustered around Hernandez nodded.

"Or are they imported?" Hernandez asked.

Rameau said that most had been living under city bridges.

When another activist piped in, Hernandez turned toward her. His perfectly combed silver hair didn't move. "Where are you from?" he asked.

"Uh, originally Michigan," she replied.

Everyone looked puzzled. Is anyone actually from Miami? Certainly not Hernandez, who was born in Cuba — a point that was not lost on some of the homeless people listening to the conversation.

Nothing really happened during the hour-long talk. Rameau suggested Hernandez speak with everyone living in the shanties.

There were no contracts drawn, no plans for a second gathering, no city hall meetings set. Hernandez said he liked one guy's idea — to use the able-bodied homeless to build an apartment building on a city-owned lot in Liberty City and then allow the homeless to live in it — and promised Rameau he would be in touch.

"You'll see me here again," Hernandez said, placing a hand on Rameau's shoulder and squeezing.

Hernandez was smiling, but Rameau wasn't. — Tamara Lush

A Memo to El Nuevo's Newsroom
Filed under: Flotsam

From: Castello, Humberto
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006, 4:59 p.m.
To: El Nuevo Herald newsroom
Subject: El Nuevo code of ethics
Importance: High


The other day, as women fled the imaginary bullets of our loco caricturista's plastic machine gun, and SWAT teams trained their snipers on my office, I got to thinking it was time to reevaluate our professional standards here at El Nuevo Herald.

Periodistas should:

• Test the accuracy of information from all sources, and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Unless the government pays you not to. Or you are insinuating links between reporters at our hermana paper and Cuban spy agencies.

• Never distort the content of news photos or video. The exception is jineteras. Jineteras don't technically have souls. Feel free to have your way with them — er, their images.

• Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid, including government propaganda agencies that transmit from airplanes.

• Avoid staged news events. If you're going to take hostages, use a real gun. Plastic weapons make fringe political demonstrations look cheap and store-bought. The CIA could stage a better junta. Let's use our heads, people. — Calvin Godfrey

Filed under: News

This past November 16, Riptide reported on some trouble brewing at Camillus House, Miami's oldest homeless assistance charity. The article, "A Louse in the House," was about housing services director Stephanie Giering's dismissal for suspected fraud, and claimed that four other employees had resigned for allegedly having inappropriate relationships with Camillus clients.

The article incorrectly identified Rubiett Jenkins as Rubietta and wrongly called her Giering's assistant. Jenkins was the nonprofit's after-care coordinator. She reported to Kenneth King, Giering's deputy director. Jenkins denies doing anything improper. She quit Camillus because she wanted a better job opportunity, Jenkins said. "I resigned because I wasn't going anywhere. I was looking at a dead-end situation."

Jenkins also faxed New Times a copy of an employee verification form in which King praises her work ethic. He rated Jenkins an outstanding employee whom he would rehire. "I could always depend on her," King wrote.

According to Jenkins, she submitted her resignation sometime in mid-October, but she could not recall the exact date. On October 18, Camillus House human resources director Barbara Romero sent a memo to all employees demanding anyone who might have been involved in misconduct resign or be fired. The nonprofit terminated Giering on November 3. — Francisco Alvarado