Protect Virginia Key
About what Occurred at City Hall
City of Miami Commissioners Voted to House the Houseless on Virginia Key.
On Tuesday (07/26) Night, Social Media was flooded by posts of a City of Miami powerpoint presentation that proposed housing chronically houseless individuals inside Virginia Key North Point Park. This plan snuck into the City of Miami Commission Meeting’s agenda only Tuesday- minimizing public input. Comissioner Carollo did not introduce it as an ordinance but as a “discussion item” that turned into an approved plan.
On Thursday (07/28), City of Miami staff presented a list of three possible sites across the city that could host a shelter. Initially, Commissioner Joe Carollo and Chairwoman Christine King were the only two votes in favor of a pilot program to build several dozen small rooms on the northeast end of Virginia Key. Commissioner Reyes, Russell, and De La Portilla voted against it. One hour after Miami commissioners rejected a concept to create a temporary homeless shelter on Virginia Key, Commissioner Alex De La Portilla flipped his vote, allowing the city to pursue a plan to set up “tiny homes” for 50 to 100 people on the island.
What has Occurred After?
Miami’s plan to build tiny homes on Virginia Key for Houseless put on Pause for Now.
Residents from the City of Miami and beyond began to express their dislike for this approved pilot program by calling, emailing, and reaching out via social media to city, county, and even state officials. The dislike for this pilot program was so apparent that it resulted in Commissioner King issuing several statements to defend her 'yes' vote. One of those was that the proposed parcel of land had not been used in 10 years. This is not true.
County Commissioner Raquel Regalado held a virtual town hall on Thursday, August 4th; to address some of the public concerns. During the virtual town hall, it was confirmed that Miami Dade County was not supporting the City of Miami's efforts to create a homeless encampment on Virginia Key due to the cost of infrastructure, concern for the homeless, and the environmental impacts that a project of this magnitude would have. It is important to note that it was mentioned that Miami Dade County would be providing the City of Miami with alternative sites outside the city limits. During this town hall, Commissioner Raquel Regalado confirmed that if this project were to continue on Virginia Key, litigation between the City of Miami and Miami Dade County would follow.
Protest and gatherings were organized inside Virginia Key North Point Park, yards away from the proposed site of the pilot program. Over hundreds of recreational enthusiast and advocates gathered to show their support of not only Virginia Key North Point Park but express that the houseless deserve better! Two days (08/08) after protesters held a rally to voice concerns, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Commissioner Joe Carollo hold a press conference stating that the approved pilot program will be put on hold for six months.
This is a small victory. It is not over. In less than six months, residents of the City of Miami will be losing one of the two 'no' votes. Commissioner Ken Russell is running for congress and will have to resign. His position will be filled by someone that the City of Miami Commission appoints. There is a storm brewing, and we must prepare for what there is to come. Continue contacting your elected officials, ask them to table this plan and ask them to support existing organizations that are helping the houseless. Ask your elected officials to protect your green spaces. Ask them to codify protections for Virginia Key North Point Park.
On Friday (8/12), seven City of Miami Cops arrived at the Virginia Key Outdoor citing several code violations and thus closing the Virginia Key Outdoor Center. The Following Sunday (8/14) The City of Miami terminated its lease with the Virginia Key Outdoor stating that VKOC owed large sums of late rent, such claims are false. On Tuesday, September 13th, the Virginia Key Outdoor Center will be discussed by the Commissioners. Legislation may result from discussion items as we have seen before. We invite everyone to attend and be heard. This could possibly be our last chance to save Virginia Key and VKOC.
Why Virginia Key North Point Park is not the Optimal Site
There is very little if any, infrastructure existing in the area proposed for this project. The subject area is highly vulnerable to hurricanes as it is immediately next to the ocean. Do we intend to rebuild the little homes every time we have a hurricane? Do we want to uproot the island's population every time we have a storm warning? Virginia Key is one of the first places where they mandate evacuations when we have hurricanes.
Though the commission has suggested trolleys going in and out of VKNPP, the problem remains that any services are, at a minimum, 6 miles (by road) away from where this project is slated to take place. It takes at least 15 to 20 minutes to reach the nearest hospital, plus arrival time if you need emergency services. This includes EMS, Fire, and police. Anyone familiar with emergency situations knows that they are extremely time-sensitive; why would we put a vulnerable population as far from any dispatch station as possible when we have other locations that are in proximity of hospitals and dispatch centers?
The area is inhospitable to residency without extreme amounts of development. If you've ever been out near the water at night for more than a few minutes, then you've been swarmed by biting gnats and mosquitoes. Under what conditions is it ideal to effectively sentence the homeless population that would be seeking residence here to constantly being tormented by bugs if they want to walk outside of the little homes for even a few minutes?
What Can I Do?
Select Discussion Item: Virginia Key Outdoor Center. Submit by Sunday evening
We fear that in a matter of years, Virginia Key will be paved over with resorts, hotels, more restaurants, and likely even apartments for the wealthy. If we lose Virginia Key, we lose the final vestige of nature in Miami. If the City of Miami proceeds with this program, we all (400,000 + Miami Residents and countless more outside the city limits) lose Virginia Key.
Please, join me and countless others in our request that the City fund existing local organizations that can immediately provide assistance to our most imperiled homeless population and demand that the City of Miami codify protection from development for Virginia Key Beach North Point Park and the rest of Virginia Key.
Contact Your City Officials:
Mayor Francis Suarez (@francissuarez)
District #1 Alex Diaz de la Portilla (@alexdlpmia)
District #2 Ken Russell (@kenrussellmiami)
District #3 Joe Carollo (@joecarollonow)
District #4 Manolo Reyes (@manolo4miami)
District #5 Christine King (@iamchristineking)
City Manager Arthur Noriega
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