Target: Marc Sarnoff, Miami City Commissioner
Goal: End a plan to criminalize Miami’s homeless
Marc Sarnoff, a Miami City Commissioner, wants to criminalize homelessness in his city. Recently, Sarnoff has proposed that the city jail people without homes for engaging in diverse behavior including “cook(ing) meals in public areas, blocking sidewalks, littering, reliving themselves in public and lewd conduct.” Though couched in promoting public order and relieving what Sarnoff calls a “chronic problem” facing the city, these new measures would brand those without roofs over their heads as criminals for the first time in fifteen years.
Sarnoff hopes to modify a 1998 agreement in the case of Pottinger v. City of Miami recognizing homelessness as something that should be treated with compassion rather than arrest. Pottinger, notes ThinkProgress, directed police “not to address homeless people they caught committing minor “quality of life” offenses, but instead offer them a bed in a nearby homeless shelter…the number of people living on the streets has (since) dropped from approximately 6,000 to 351.” Instead of continuing a successful and humane approach recognizing the homeless as needing assistance, the new modifications Sarnoff is proposing would effectively re-criminalize them.
The city of Miami should reject this approach and continue to shelter those without homes instead of jail them. What is needed is additional financial support to address shelter crowdedness, not a return to the days of imprisonment. By signing this petition, you will ask Commissioner Sarnoff to drop his plan to criminalize homelessness in Miami.
Dear Commissioner Sarnoff,
Recently, you have announced your support of measures which would effectively re-criminalize homelessness in Miami. You have stated you wish to modify the 1998 agreement in Pottinger v. City of Miami directing police to offer shelter to those without a roof over their heads who commit “quality of life” offenses instead of jailing them.
Though your support of changing Pottinger is done in the name of relieving what you call a “chronic problem” in the city of Miami, it does so at the expense of more humane options that recognize those without roofs over their heads as needing assistance and not imprisonment. ThinkProgress noted in a July 16 report that “In the 15 years since Pottinger, the number of people living on the streets has dropped from approximately 6,000 to 351, largely due to more shelters and support.” Though shelters in Miami may be filled, simply returning to the days of imprisoning those with no shelter is a shortsighted approach.
I urge you to drop your plan to re-jail the homeless in Miami and instead concentrate on measures to provide more funding and support for additional shelters. Living without having a home should not be a crime.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: ImageMD via Flickr