MIAMI – Look closely and you see his albums and his flag among the rubble of his family mementos.
“I thought I had two days to get stuff out,” Mike Hamilton says. “I had five minutes. I begged for an extra five minutes to put on shoes. I got one bag, my birth certificate.”
Hamilton, 70, is safe in a hotel for now, thanks to some good samaritans.
But he was left homeless when the house where he grew up, where his family has been living in the Liberty City neighborhood for 60 years, was demolished by the city of Miami last week.
The city, however, says it was following proper protocols in bulldozing the structure that had become dangerous.
“We never came across the evidence of anyone actually living at this particular property,” said Miami Building Director Ace Marrero. “Had that actually been the case, today’s outcome would have been completely different.”
3/ “...you can’t really lose track of the human factor that’s part of this whole situation...”@CityofMiami ‘s Building Director, on the process, the problem and how this got to last resort demolition without anyone realizing Mr. Hamilton was living here ⏩@WPLGLocal10 pic.twitter.com/NqK8Bcf5Rl— Glenna Milberg (@GlennaWPLG) August 31, 2020
The city wrecking team arrived last week, the final act of the year-long process that started with neighbors’ complaints in 2019 about the derelict property.
“Damaged by fire, broken windows, broken doors, the roof was literally almost about to collapse,” Marrero said.
There were inspections, certified letters, warnings, city hearings and decisions — all noticed to the listed property owner, Hamilton’s cousin in Gainesville. But they were never answered, even to this day.
Hamilton was living with no water and no power.
Now he’s on the city’s radar — and in its care.
“We can place him in hotel space for roughly about 14 days, said Milton Vickers, director of Miami human services. “We’ll be looking at means to sort of help him permanently.”