Controversial Virginia Key homeless camp plan put on hold

Amid widespread outrage, city leaders proposed rounding up the homeless to move them to the island

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Commissioner Joe Carollo (Getty)
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Commissioner Joe Carollo (Getty)

A polarizing City of Miami proposal to encamp homeless people on Virginia Key is dead in the water, at least for now.

At a Tuesday press conference, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and City Commissioner Joe Carollo said a plan to use a city-owned site on the barrier island next to Key Biscayne is off the table for at least six months, according to the Miami Herald.

Two weeks ago, the Miami City Commission voted 3-2 to approve city staff’s proposal to place up to 100 tiny homes on the northeastern shore of Virginia Key where the city would transport members of its homeless population who currently reside in the streets of booming areas like downtown, Overtown and Wynwood.

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Suarez and Carollo agreed to have the city commission pause the effort until Miami’s legislative body reconvenes in September. During the next six months, the city will work with Miami-Dade County officials on making more shelter beds available, identifying other publicly-owned properties for temporary housing and stopping the release of homeless people from county jails within city limits, the Miami Herald reported.

Local environmentalists, homeless activists, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and Historic Virginia Beach Park Trust Chairman Patrick Range, among others, widely derided the plan as an ill-conceived idea to tackle the city’s homelessness. The trust oversees a historically designated area of Virginia Key that was the only place Black residents could swim in during the Segregation era.

At the press conference, Carollo, who’s been accused in federal lawsuits of using the city’s police and code enforcement departments to shut down venues owned by real estate investor Bill Fuller and his partners, blasted critics “elitists” and “pulling the race card.”

— Francisco Alvarado