Support The Crespogram
THE HYPOCRISY OF THE ELECTED OFFICIALS IN THE CITY OF MIAMI WHEN IT COMES TO DEALING WITH HOMELESSNESS IS BOUNDLESS AND EVIDENT ON THE CITY'S STREETS EVERY DAY
On October 10th of 2018, Ron Book, lobbyist and longtime chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust appeared before the Miami City Commission and made a heartfelt presentation about how he, the Trust, the city, various other agencies, and even the State Attorney's office had come together to clear out the large homeless population in a 6 square block area around and under I-395 and NW 1st Avenue between 13th and 14th street.
It was worse than a homeless encampment, Book declared. It was an open area of drugs and sex, and a place that no city and no one should ever have to witness.
NUMBER 16 - JANUARY 21, 2020
Copyrighted: 2011,2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
What was conveniently and purposely excluded from the sanctimonious breast-beating and claims about cleaning the area up was the fact that the real reason for Book and the others to finally decide at this particular point and time to do something about the people existing under I-395 was that the county and city needed to clear NW 1st Avenue of all of the homeless people so that the street could be excavated for new drainage pipes.
That was in October of 2018, and the promises made were that this area was going to be permanently cleaned out, and all those homeless people existing on the street and under I-395 would receive whatever treatment and assistance that they need, or would accept.
It is now January of 2020, and while the number of homeless people in the area appear to be less than what it was in October of 2018, there are still a number of homeless people who use the cover of I-395 as a roof for their encampment.
Shortly after 8 AM on Thursday. January 16th, I drove to the area under I-395 at NW 1st Avenue between 13th and 14th street because I had been told that every Tuesday and Thursday morning a garbage truck, a water truck and a street sweeper along with employees from Public Works and a police escort showed up to to clean and wash down the sidewalks. This practice was conducted on other streets in and around Overtown, but I was told that it always started at this location.
Notice how clean the sidewalk is, and how neat David, "the 73 year old beautiful soul" looks. The only thing missing is a picnic basket and a bottle of wine.
The staging of the photograph including one of the Mayor's bodyguards posted to control privacy for the Mayor and his wife could make a suspicious person who knows how the mayor likes to pose for photos that are intended to make him look good wonder whether someone went around and scouted out an appropriate street location and homeless person for the Mayor and his wife to pose with, because in the 10 years that he's been an elected official in Miami this is the only known instance that Suarez has ever been seen with homeless people, and the fact that he drug his wife along for the photo-op is evidence that this was nothing other than a staged event.
THE CITY OF MIAMI'S HOMELESS ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
On December 27th, Milton Vickers, the point man for the City Manager on homeless issues sent a cosmetically slick Power Point presentation to the Mayor, members of the City Commission and their staffs detailing the latest self-congratulatory claims of the success of the city's homeless programs.
As a former US Army colonel, the Manager, who Commissioner Carollo accused days ago of behaving like the commanding officer of a military garrison, had made it a priority to eliminate homelessness among veterans, and the presentation makes a point to claim that that goal had been achieved.
I have no way, and I doubt that the city has any way to really determine whether homelessness for veterans has been eliminated, although below is a widely circulated photo of a dead homeless veteran on a downtown sidewalk. The self-congratulatory claims of success belies the fact homelessness is not a problem where "success" can be so easily declared.
THE EXPLOITATION OF HOMELESS PEOPLE BY THE MAYOR OF MIAMI
On Thanksgiving weekend of 2019, with homeless people scattered along a number of downtown streets, Miami Mayor, Francis Suarez, the poser who pretends on random days to be the Mayor of Miami took his wife, his bodyguards and a photographer to SW 2nd Street, literally a block away from the MRC, the city's administrative center, where the below photo was taken.
He then put the photo on his Twitter page, with the assine comment that he couldn't think of "a more beautiful gift" that he and his wife could offer a homeless man than, "our time."
The complaints of the homeless people that I had previously spoken with was that while this effort was supposedly intended as hygienic, the process resulted in what they believed was an effort to harass them by first forcing them to pack up and move their stuff every couple days, and then by taking the items that they left behind, in some instances items that they were still trying to move, and throwing everything into a garbage truck.
If you look at the photo at the top of this story, those bicycle parts and other items being thrown into the garbage truck below last Thursday are some of those same bicycle parts in that photo.
Homelessness is not a crime, although the conditions that lead or force some people onto the streets should be.
The streets are dangerous, mean and frightening places to find yourself, and for some people who end up on the streets there are no easy, or even complicated ways to get them to agree to leave those streets once they've arrived.
Living on the street becomes a way of life that once entered into sometimes becomes a prison without bars that you can't escape from.
Mental illness is rampant, as is the overwhelming struggle of survival that consumes the daily life of many homeless people considered to be part of the category of what are known as the "chronic homeless" to the point that all of the self-help slogans about lifting yourself up and tackling your problems one step at a time are little more than nonsensical platitudes expressed by people who haven't a clue of the raw reality involved in survival for people who find themselves living on the streets.
Hitting bottom for some means staying on the bottom because the damage caused by the physical and psychological beatings that resulted in their ending up on the streets have robbed them of the will, energy and vision need just to look up.
It's those people who need help the most, not necessarily because their lives can be drastically changed - although one should never deny one that opportunity - because not only are they victims but because our very humanity requires us not to turn our backs and ignore the fact that the squalor and degradation of people living on streets says as much, if not more about how far we've drifted from the notion of citizenship and shared values to a balkanized, greedy and uncaring society.
There are those, especially those with a financial self-interest in the money generated to finance the homeless industry who will cry out at the accusation that we have become an uncaring society, but one need not go far to demonstrate that it has.
There are a lot of Linda's on the streets of American cities. This Linda is on the streets of Miami.
I shot the below video of Linda being woken up on Thursday morning by a police officer escorting the city employees as they started their cleanup.
The officer was not unkind when he woke her, and asked her if she wanted or needed to go to the hospital, but that was the extent of his involvement because that officer, like any police officer you talk with about dealing with homeless people will be quick to tell you that because of the laws, they have little or no ability to do much if anything about people like Linda unless they are bleeding, violent or act out in ways that threaten themselves or other people.
Again, homelessness is not a crime, and that legalism becomes a justification for a lot of other crimes, not the least of which is an acceptance of situations such as Linda's.
AS PAINFUL AND DISTURBING AS THIS VIDEO IS, I URGE YOU TO WATCH THE WHOLE THING BECAUSE THIS IS A GRAPHIC VIEW OF HOMELESSNESSNESS IN MIAMI THAT YOU'LL PROBABLY NOT SEE ANYWHERE ELSE.
Over the years the Homeless Trust can point to successes in funding groups like Camillus House, the Chapman Partnership, other local agencies and in working to provide permanent housing for homeless people.
As the above 2018-2019 projected budget shows, they have a lot of very detailed numbers to support their claims and successes.
One set of numbers that don't show up in Power Point presentations however, are the salaries and benefits of those who run these agencies
Take for example the .
My reason for requesting their current list of board members is because hasn't been updated since January of 2018, when Tomas Regalado and Danny Alfonso left Miami City government.
A failure to update something so simple as who is on your board of directors speaks to me of a lack of concern for process as well as an additional lack of concern for transparency because the public is not only being kept in the dark as to who is on this board of directors but also whether there is even a full 27 member board in place.
When talking about the Homeless Trust, more often than not the name of Ron Book becomes synonymous with that of the Trust.
Book is a long-time lobbyist and political power broker whose clients include various municipal governments in South Florida including Miami-Dade County where he seems to hold tremendous sway over their behavior including their decision to support a time-limit wavier that allowed them to in 2016.
The blog , rates Book and his partners Rana Brown and Kelly Millette as pound for pound, the most financially successful lobbyists in Tallahassee.
Book was the power behind the creation of the Trust in 1993, and he was, and remains the only chairman that that group has had. Some people, especially the people associated with the groups that the Trust gives money to, love Ron Book.
Book is also not without his critics, among them those who identified him as .
There are others who are unhappy or dissatisfied with Book's stranglehold control over the Trust and his dictatorial demands that his vision of how to treat the homeless is the only vision allowed to be considered and funded.
That is why for all of the successes, the county continues after almost 20 years to consistently find itself not only with the same approximate number of chronic homeless on the streets, but for why no alternative efforts have been allowed to take place to deal with alternatives to Book's position that "permanent housing" is the only viable option for dealing the homeless problem.
When it comes to the decisions and activities of the Trust, if it's not Ron Book's idea, it's not going to be implemented.
In doing research about the history of the Trust I came across a March 2012 article in the Biscayne Times written by Frank Rollason a long-time public servant who has held a number of high profile jobs in the city and county, and who I consider a personal friend and someone to turn to for sound, practical advice on issues of municipal governance.
The title of his 2010 article was, , and the bottom half of that article referenced an earlier story he had written about homelessness and the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust in 2007.
Having myself been treated as a statistical number for decades in ways that had no basis in either my reality or in the reality of those counted with me, I've always been suspect of reports liike the one above that attempt to buttonhole human behavior, especially human behavior predicated on so many variables, including luck, random circumstance and even bad decision making, especially when the authors are bureaucrats acting on behalf of politicians whose agendas are often predicated on exploiting people and events for political and/or financial gain.
It was for those reasons that I began driving through the city of Miami, and especially through Overtown and the areas where homeless people gather as part of my own personal effort to monitor what goes on there.
I started doing that after I appeared before the city commission in January of 2018 to talk about an incident where I witnessed the selling of drugs at the intersection of NW 2nd Avenue and 14th Street. You can see that video .
It was apparent to me as I drove around, that the comments about homelessness made by public officials, including Ron Book at his October 2018 appearance, did not jibe with the reality that I kept seeing.
Nor did they jibe with the observations, photos and videos of folks like Jose Goyanes who owns several downtown businesses and came to work every day to find homeless people sleeping in the doorways of his businesses with feces, urine and on occasion dead bodies on the sidewalk Goyanes was part of a group of downtown business owners who hounded the city and Ken Russell, their District 2 Commissioner for their failure to do much of anything, other than.
I believe that it is fair to state that the photos used by the city in their Power Point presentation were purposely chosen to present a sanitized view, which by intent excluded the real reality of life on the streets of Miamithat have continuously been revealed not only by photographs like the ones above, but by countless other photos posted on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.
It was Matthew, 26:11, who quotes Jesus as saying:
"The poor you will always have with you, but you will not
always have me."
Jesus was right, and although he was the son of God his powers didn't seem to include an ability to look into the future and realize that while we wouldn't have him, we would acquire public and private agencies who would create an industry out of dealing with the poor and the homeless, and those agencies would become a lucrative source of income and power.
RON BOOK AND THE HOMELESS TRUST
As bad as the homelessness problem is, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County is fortunate that our problems are no where as severe as the problems that cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York face, and one of the reasons for that is that the taxpayers in Miami-Dade County last year contributed - whether they know it or not - $57,495,000 to the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust from a 1% food and beverage tax. In addition, the agency also collected another $35,553,000 in state and federal grants for a total of $92,869,000.
Let me repeat that, according to the 2018-2019 proposed budget below, the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust expected to receive a total of $92,869,000 in money to deal with the homeless problems in Miami-Dade County in 2018-2019.
If you take the time to go to Guidestar and look through available IRS 990 tax returns on numerous civic and social service agencies in South Florida you'll find a significant number of "executives" making significant 6 figure salaries plus benefits.
Financial transparency is for me the first, and often most reliable source for determining how far I can rely on the truthfulness of the individuals entrusted with handling public money. If you lie or attempt to hide how you handle public money then I tend to believe - and I have 11 years of stories on this blog to support that belief - that you'll lie about other things.
I was able to obtain a copy of the Homeless Trust's 2018-2019 projected budget, not because they made it available on their website, but because it's a public document submitted to county government and therefore I was able to download it from the county's archives.
For a "public agency" that is entrusted with $92,869,000 in public money, the Trust provides NO downloadable financial information on it's website.
is a link to their Home page, and is a link to the page on the website that includes where you would expect to find any such information.
No where on any page of their website does the Trust provide links to it's audited financial statements, IRS 990 tax returns or any other detailed financial information on how they spend the tens of millions of dollars they spend every year.
Because they receive tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year I was curious whether they had ever been audited by the county. For an answer to that question I contacted Ms. Cathy Jackson, the Director of the County's Audit and Management Services to find out whether, or when the county had last audited the Homeless Trust.
Her response was that the county's last audit had been in 2001.
In addition, unlike dozens and dozens of other public agencies and groups in Miami-Dade County, you cannot find a copy of the Trust's IRS 990 tax returns on , the search site for that information.
My failure to access any financial information on the Trust resulted in my sending them a public record request last week, which I then followed up the next day with a 2nd Request.
MURDERED BY STABBING
Ron Book, Mayor Francis Suarez, Milton Vickers, soon to be departed City Manager Emilio Gonzalez, County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, City Commissioners Ken Russell and Keon Hardemon all own a share of what is depicted in this photo.
For them, and for the rest of you so-called homeless advocates, you can talk all the shit you want, cut deals and pass out taxpayer money to your pals and cronies in grants and contracts, pat yourselves on the back and show up and accept plaques and awards at fancy Black-Tie dinners and galas for being upstanding citizens looking out for the poor, homeless people, but the one thing you can't do, is do all of those things and not do a lot more for Linda, and all the other Linda's, and Sams, and Jose's and the other homeless people on the streets of Miami who are literally living and sleeping in their own shit!
Even in Miami, Bitches! this is unacceptable!
To their credit, the Chapman Partnership included how much they pay their top executives. on the other hand claimed in their IRS 990 tax return for 2016 - the last year available on - that they paid out $7,161,121 in salaries, and although they listed 4 pages of non-paid directors, they failed, unlike Chapman Partners, to provide any information on their top 5 wage earners.
Rollason's reference to the use of the term, "Continuum of Care," in 2007, showed up again in the December 2019, Power Point presentation where the city declared that:
.4 "Leading the commitment of the City of Miami to
.4 reduce its homeless population in a humane,
.4 dignified and sustainable fashion through strategic
.4 collaborations through a Continuum of Care."
Sometimes the more things change, the more they remain the same.
As someone who spent many years in prison, some of them in pretty harsh conditions, my thoughts about the conditions of chronic homelessness today were in part shaped by my own personal experiences, a lot of reading, and in no small part by having the rare opportunity to watch and talk at length with Fredrick Wiseman, who produced and directed the heart wrenching and horrendous documentary, Titicut Follies, filmed at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Massachusetts.
If you've never heard of this documentary or know of the impact that it, and other investigations and films had back in the late 60's and early 70's in shaping public policy on the treatment of the mentally ill, you're missing a critical link in understanding how a well-meaning but haphazard closing of what were then called insane asylums resulted in so many mentally ill people are on our streets today without adequate long term treatment and care.
is a link to this film.
Contrary to the claims of humane treatment made by today's politicians, bureaucrats and homeless policy makers, what is happening on the streets of Miami when it comes to dealing with chronic homelessness is absolutely shameless.
There is no way, and no excuse for this woman named Linda to be laying on a city street in Miami in a rag of a dress drenched with her own piss and shit.