The Miami Beach City Commission voted 4-3 on a camping ban, which allows the arrest of homeless individuals who sleep outside and decline shelter.
Previously, authorities were required to give a warning before relocating homeless individuals violating the outdoor sleeping ban.
The new ordinance removes this warning provision.
On Wednesday, Tracy Slavens, a Lotus House shelter board member, conveyed sympathy for homeless individuals with criminal records to Miami Beach commissioners.
“With a criminal record, it makes it very hard for them to get jobs or rent an apartment,” said Slavens.
Rachel Prestipino of Catalyst Miami told local leaders that the new law would “criminalize” homeless individuals.
“An item that would criminalize sleeping outdoors, which they are referring to in the ordinance as camping, we feel like this criminalizes homelessness,” she said. “We know there are no shelters in Miami Beach and limited shelter capacity in Miami-Dade overall.”
According to the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, Miami Beach had 152 unsheltered homeless individuals on its streets in August. The county had 3,720 homeless people, including both sheltered and unsheltered individuals.
On Wednesday, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Alex J. Fernandez, and Steven Meiner supported the new ordinance.
“We have individuals living on the streets exposed to illness, crime and rape,” said Fernandez. “We need to make sure our streets are free of urine.”
“If you refuse to accept shelter, you are living in our parks, and you refuse to leave, we will make an arrest,” said Rosen Gonzalez.
“This is for people we see having sex outside, masturbating, and refusing services,” she added. “This is a compassionate way of removing and reclaiming the public safe that are no longer safe.”
“We are a city of laws and are trying to help people,” said Meiner.
However, Miami Beach Commissioners Ricky Arriola, David Richardson, and Laura Dominguez opposed the item.
“Arresting people for being homeless is not a solution,” said Arriola. “Being homeless is not a crime, and if a crime is committed, we already have laws that address that.”
“Police already have tools for criminal behavior, so I don’t think it’s necessary at this time,” said Dominguez.