Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stimulus Funds to Relocate Sex Offenders : Federal funds to help homeless sex offenders living under Miami bridge.

Before you decide who to get mad at, realize this fact:
You caused this problem, now you are going to pay for it.

Miami, FL -Stimulus money meant to help the homeless in Miami-Dade county may be used to help relocate homeless sex offenders living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach.

Most of these sex offenders were pushed out of other residential areas due to the county’s strict sex-offender residency ordinance, which prohibits sex offenders from coming within 2,500 feet of schools, public parks, and other public areas where children may be present. Existing state law provides for a 1,000’ no-entry zone, and has less types of prohibited places. The City of Miami recently filed a lawsuit seeking fines from the Department of Corrections, because a city park – Picnic Island, only accessible by boat – is within 2,500 feet of the colony.

According to the Miami Herald, a portion of the $7.5 million administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and slated for Miami-Dade County’s homeless may give the bridge colony’s residents financial assistance for up to 18 months, which could be used to help pay for rent, food, transportation, bills, and other expenses that would ordinarily be well beyond their means.

Ron Book, the chairman of Miami-Dade’s Homeless Trust, has been leading efforts to place the residents in appropriate housing since the story first broke. Thanks to national media attention brought on by a series of news reports, Miami-Dade County has been locked in a battle against the State’s Department of Corrections, who actually placed these sex offenders under this bridge. Someplace where they could be monitored was better than roaming the streets with no actual location. Even the Motor Vehicles department issued ID cards listing the Julia Tuttle Causeway as their legitimate address.

Though the efforts of Book and others, the number of sex offenders still living under the bridge has dropped by nearly half, but about 49 still live in boxes, cars and tents. Many are refusing to leave, fearing that when the money runs out, they will again be back on the streets, and may possibly face violation of their parole or probation reporting requirements. The federal funds, while providing assistance for 18 months, must be recertified every 90 days.