Miami commissioners approve plan to house homeless on Virginia Key after initially voting it down

A pilot program aimed at providing shelter for homeless people in Miami was voted down by commissions on Thursday.

MIAMI – A pilot program aimed at providing shelter for homeless people in Miami was voted down by commissions on Thursday.

Until it wasn’t.

In a 3 to 2 vote, the Miami City Commission rejected a plan that would have built 50 to 100 mini homes on Virginia Key as a homeless shelter community.

But shortly after the vote, the plan was brought back to life, and passed.

One of the three commissions who initially voted no, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, changed his mind and instead voted yes.

Dubbed a “transformation and transition zone,” District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo spearheaded the plan. He’s led a crusade to rid Miami of tent cities.

While the number of people living on Miami streets has dropped, their visibility has been raised as the city began clearing and fencing more out-of-the-way locations.

Opposition centered not around finding a place to shelter Miami’s homeless population, but the “optimal” location identified under the plan: Virginia Key.

“Nobody wants the homeless in their backyard,” Carollo said before the vote. “So it’s going to have to, by default, I think, go to Virginia Key.”

District 4 Commissioner Manolo Reyes said the encampment would have been “totally independent” and “not in a shelter full of people.”

Speakers at Thursday’s meeting were incensed over the proposal.

“Why did the public learn about this on Tuesday night through social media?” one asked.

Another called Virginia Key an “environmentally sensitive” area.

District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell was also critical of the plan.

“Nobody’s talking about what is the proper solution for homelessness,” Russell said. “They’re discussing which location we should have an encampment.”

District 5 Commissioner Christine King, however, supported the proposed zone.

“This is where they’ll have a safe place to be,” she said.

Russell, Reyes and District 1 Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla voted against the proposal, while Carollo and King voted in favor.

Commissioners will consider other possible sites in September.

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.