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Fran Rollason: Say "No!" to the Upper Eastside's Homeless

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Riptide recently came across this gem: a letter written by Fran Rollason, sent by her to various listservs and neighborhood businesses. Rollason is president of the MiMo Biscayne Association and the wife of longtime city bureaucrat and one-time District 2 contender Frank Rollason.

We reprint it here. Rollason describes it as the description of a meeting between her homeowners group and city officials from the Homeless Assistance Program about the rising tide of homelessness in the area. But, as Riptide pointed out ove the phone to Rollason, these aren’t exactly meeting minutes.

Rollason’s use of phrases like “Don’t kid yourself, they are not harmless and down on their luck,” and the inexplicable quotation marks around “their belongings and cardboard shelters” -- caused Riptide to wonder if she hadn’t been a little, well, mean.

But Rollason says no – “I’m only trying to pass on the message of what we were told by the city,” she insists. “I’m not an insensitive person, trust me.”

Read the letter for yourself. Below it is a response written by Little Haiti resident Mae Singerman, who sent Rollason’s letter to us.

Rollason’s letter:

If you think the number of homeless in the Upper Eastside have increased,

your instincts are correct! There are MORE homeless in our neighborhood.

The homeless census numbers for the Upper Eastside NET area have gone from

15 (January 2007) to 39 (August 26, 2007). This was verified by the Homeless Assistance Officers who attended the MiMo Meeting on Monday night.

Because of these numbers, it is becoming a common sight to see the homeless

approaching people at bus stops, open air cafés, parking lots, stop lights,

pushing grocery carts full of personal belongings in our streets and sleeping where ever a space is available. They settle at the River and at Biscayne Shopping Center. They make camps until the police run them off; however, they return when all is clear.

Don't kid yourself, they are not harmless and down on their luck. Some have

chosen this existence. MANY have mental problems, are drug addicts and have

no scruples. They will steal and become mean spirited when met with a

response not to their liking.

To stop the numbers from increasing even more and to send them on their way,

WE must change the manner in which we respond to them.




Did you know they have more rights than you! They can urinate in the street

and it is legal. Years ago the City was sued by the ACLU because of the treatment some homeless received from Police and the manner in which "their belongings and cardboard shelters" were disposed. This suit became known as the Pottinger Settlement. In order to cut the City's losses, the City entered in to an agreement and from that day forward the homeless gained many "rights" within the City limits. This agreement is the reason the City has such a tough time bringing down the number of homeless within the limits.

The majority of the street people we see day after day are the chronic homeless. They may either like the way they live or don't have the mental capacity to change. The ones who are down on their luck are the ones who chose to enter the program at the HAC (Homeless Assistance Center) in an effort to get their lives back on track. The people on our streets walk through the swinging door and return to our door step and their life with no responsibilities.

Most make it difficult to feel sorry for them. They are taking away your quality of life and the viability of your community. There are places they can go throughout the City for food and assistance. It is not your responsibility to sustain them at your place of business; you already pay taxes which are budgeted to the County's Homeless Trust to address the homeless situation on a county-wide basis - this includes the City of Miami.

You must say no to them; and, contact our Commissioners and tell them we want the Court to revisit this agreement. We are taxpayers and we should have the right to walk on our streets and use public transportation without fear of reprisal for not giving someone money. There has to be change.

There has to be a remedy.

Singerman’s response:

Dear Fran,

I am writing to respond to the letter that you wrote, which was widely circulated about homelessness in your neighborhood. I was shocked and offended by the extent you went to to dehumanize the homeless people who live in your area. However, I realized I had heard that language (though slightly more veiled) before from people like you and me. I grew up in the upper-middle class, predominantly white Miami Beach community. The culture of my class taught me to care more about property values, manicured lawns and access to cute neighborhood restaurants than poor people, some suffering with addiction and mental illness, who are in a daily struggle to survive in our same community.

In your letter, you suggest that your neighbors should stop feeding and employing (!) homeless people as a way to eliminate them from your neighborhood. However, I challenge you and others from our community to work on eliminating poverty another way. We need to look deeply into the situation and recognize our fears, questioning the mentality that allows people of color, poor and homeless community members to be seen as people to be feared, disposed of and eliminated. It means searching for the root causes of poverty and homelessness, and looking honestly at how we as a community have not found a comprehensive or dignified way to solve these problems.

Listen to and prioritize the voices of the poor, the homeless and people of color. Recognize homeless people as neighborhood residents equal to the homeowners. Put their experiences central in the defining of what the problem is, and in the creation of solutions. Most people don't choose chronic homelessness, but sometimes people do choose to live outside of shelters and systems that function as prisons and treat them like animals.

The homeless people who live in and from 50th to 77th street are real human beings, not people to fear or lock up because rich people don't want to feel guilty when they see the violence of poverty and racism inflicted on poor people by this society. Instead of policing poverty and spending money to lock up homeless, why don't we push to use that money in more productive ways: more affordable housing, job training, and health services.

I hope our community can use this issue as a motivation to engage in the honest and painful path to build a more humane, just and dignified community.

Mae Singerman

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