ACLU: Agreement reached retains core Pottinger protections for homeless

ACLU of Florida, City of Miami reach agreement

MIAMI – Attorneys for the ACLU of Florida and the City of Miami reached an agreement Wednesday that ended the city's efforts to modify the historic Pottinger Settlement Agreement, a 1998 agreement with the full force of a court order, that protects homeless individuals from being harassed or arrested by law enforcement for the purpose of driving them from public areas.

ACLU said an addendum to the original agreement, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, keeps in place critical protections for homeless people in Miami and gives new programs to counter homelessness a chance to succeed.

The original Pottinger Agreement was won after a decade of litigation involving two trials, two appeals and nearly two years of mediation in which officials said a federal court found intentional and systematic violations of the constitutional rights of homeless persons by the City of Miami.

In Sept. 2013, the city filed a motion in federal court to modify the agreement, potentially enabling a resurrection of the policies which were found to violate the rights of the city's homeless in Pottinger, according to ACLU.

"While not perfect, today's agreement keeps the spirit of Pottinger, and the rights it protects, in place," said Maria Kayanan, Associate Legal Director for the ACLU of Florida.

The addendum to the agreement was reached through court-ordered mediation after the ACLU of Florida, who represented the city's homeless in the original Pottinger case, filed a response opposing and seeking to dismiss the city's motion to amend the agreement.

Officials said Thursday's agreement puts a two-year moratorium on further motions by the city to modify the agreement to allow "Housing First" efforts to solve the issue of homelessness in the city to have a chance to succeed.

"What was filed with the court today will keep downtown Miami from becoming a Constitution-free zone for our homeless citizens," said Stephen Schnably, a law professor at the University of Miami and one of the Pottinger lawyers.

A copy of the addendum filed Thursday is available here.