Miami residents are up in arms over a pilot program to build an encampment for homeless people on a secluded beach that’s just a stone’s throw away from an exclusive island that was once home to Oprah Winfrey, Derek Jeter, and Mel Brooks.
Miami-Dade County’s seventh district sparked anger after it quietly approved a plan to build between 50 and 100 miniature houses in the North Point Park section of Virginia Key Beach.
Residents are upset over the plan for a variety of reasons, according to reports.
Environmentalists believe the encampment will destroy the island’s fragile ecosystem, while recreational enthusiasts think it will hamper their ability to spend time outdoors unhindered, according to The Daily Beast.
Advocates for the homeless are also opposed to the plan because they say there aren’t enough resources or infrastructure on the island in order to facilitate access to transportation, sewage and food.
“You’re taking the chronically homeless, shelter resistant population, bringing them to an isolated area, removing them from everything they know, providing only mobile services and pretty much isolating them on an island two miles from the nearest roadway,” Esther Alonso, the owner of Virginia Key Outdoor Center, told WSVN-TV.
Virginia Key, a largely isolated island, currently houses a magnet public high school as well as a wastewater treatment plant. The nearest grocery store is some six miles away.
It is also right next door to Key Biscayne and Fisher Island — home to some of the priciest real estate in the country.
Celebrities who have bought real estate in these areas include Argentinian soccer icon Lionel Messi, actor Andy Garcia, pop star Cher, tennis legends Boris Becker and Andre Agassi, “Pretty Woman” star Julia Roberts, and hockey star Pavel “Russian Rocket” Bure.
On Thursday, hundreds of residents expressed their displeasure during a District 7 town hall meeting that was broadcast via Zoom.
In the comments section, county commissioners were inundated with messages denouncing their plan.
“Are the homeless that are going to be housed illegal immigrants or are we first going to house homeless US Citizens?” one resident wrote.
The commenter added: “if we’re putting tax dollars to not even take care of US citizens then we need to refocus altogether.”
Another commenter said: “Bad, Bad idea. Bunch of dummies.”
“These ‘Tiny homes’ would be for rent on Airbnb in no time,” another town hall attendee fumed.
County officials voted 3-2 to advance the plan, but Ken Russell, a commissioner who is opposed to the so-called “transition zone” in Virginia Key, said that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has the “ability to veto any actions by the city commission.”
“It’s embarrassing for the city,” Russell told The Daily Beast.
“It perpetuates this reaction from residents like ‘not here, do it over there.’ It’s not only that this is the wrong location for this idea, but it’s the wrong solution.”