Protests planned, Miami-Dade mayor responds over proposed Virginia Key homeless camp

The proposed site for a homeless camp on Virginia Key

MIAMI – A memo from Miami-Dade County’s mayor to members of the Board of County Commissioners adds yet another voice of concern for a proposed homeless encampment on Virginia Key. And this weekend, at least three groups will be on-site protesting the proposed “transition zone.”

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in the memo that the county “is now exploring to understand potential challenges with the site.”

Miami city commissioners approved a plan to move forward with the pilot program that won in a 3-2 vote on July 28.

Levine Cava, in a detailed memo to Chairman Joseph “Pepe” Diaz and other members of the board, stated that while the county is committed to finding solutions to house the homeless, the transitional housing model on Virginia Key raises “areas of concern.” Levine Cava has a background in social work—she received a graduate degree from Columbia University in law and social work.

Levine Cava’s memo about the “transition zone” lists in detail challenges, which she cites as “access to basic services, the safety and wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness who might be relocated there, the historical significance of the site, infrastructure considerations, environmental concerns, and more.”

Areas of concern? Social services considerations, emergency evacuation, and public safety considerations, historical importance, infrastructure considerations, environmental considerations and potential conflicts in proposed use.

The encampment was first proposed by City of Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo last October, with the idea that 50 to 100 tiny homes would be constructed.

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell told Local 10 News that he isn’t only opposed to the proposed location, but the overall idea of isolating a vulnerable population.

“What you are going to have is homeless individuals who get dropped here by the dozen who are just wandering around Virginia Key with no services and no future,” Russell said.

A report presented at the July meeting called “Transformation & Transition Zone” stated that the Virginia Key parcel was an optimal location.

Of the five proposed sites around the city—including Overtown near Camillus Park, Allapattah, Liberty City or downtown near José Martí Park—the report presented at the July meeting stated that the Virginia Key parcel was “optimal.”

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Aug. 5, members of the South Florida Paddlers group, the Miami Rowing Club, and the Virginia Key Bicycle Club will stage demonstrations around Virginia Key.

South Florida Paddlers told Local 10 News they will be on-site from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Another group is set to demonstrate against the encampment on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Over the years, Miami-Dade County has invested millions in habitat restoration, contamination assessments and remediation efforts on Virginia Key.

(See Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Memo)

(See the proposal for the “Transformation & Transition Zone”)

About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local