Authorities remove homeless 'addicts' from Overtown area near Miami Arts & Entertainment District

City forces out homeless community crowding shade area under I-395

By Glenna Milberg, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

MIAMI - A group of workers suited up against biohazards on Friday morning to clean an area in Miami where homeless addicts gather under Interstate 395. They brought masks, water pressure machines and a lot of chemicals.  

The workers found more than 200 used needles in the area surrounding Northwest 14th and 13th Streets between Northwest First Place and Northwest Second Avenue. There were also syringes and condoms. 

The workers were prepared for the findings. Overtown residents have reported there is open drug use and sex in the area near Booker T. Washington Senior High School and the Overtown Youth Center. Some students walk near them regularly to get to school. 

"It has grown from (a) traditional homeless population to an opioid or crack cocaine population," said Milton Vickers, the director of the new Miami Department of Human Services

The area is also within walking distance of developments in downtown Miami's new Arts and Entertainment District. The district's closest towers are the Melo Group's 34-story Square Station Miami building, which has 710 apartments, and NR Investments' 37-story Canvas building, which has 513 apartments. 

The Melo Group is also developing the property at 1336, 1348 and 1366 N.E. First Ave., 50 and 58 N.E. 14th Street, and 1335 N.E. Miami Court. They paid $16 million for it in 2014.

While the developers' biggest sales pitch is usually quality of life, health officials were reporting details about a public health hazard west of the Arts and Entertainment District developments. Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade employees issued a memo with pictures classifying the situation as a symptom of the opioid addiction crisis. 

Lobbyist Ron Book, who volunteers as chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, said the addicts are also at risk. Authorities believe dealers use the hardened addicts to test the quality of heroin cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, and carfentanil, a white powder that is about 100 times more potent than fentanyl. 

In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert warning about the rise in deaths involving the increased use of the dangerous illicit synthetic opioids. 

"They let these people be their guinea pigs," Book said about the dealers who are reportedly taking advantage of the homeless addicts.

On Friday morning, some two dozen people agreed to be taken to homeless shelters or treatment facilities. Some just walked away and returned soon after. A woman, who said she had been sent to a shelter, returned Friday afternoon. She said she wanted to make the withdrawal symptoms stop. 

Northwest 14th Street and Northwest First Court

Northwest 14th Street and Northwest First Court

Northwest 13th Street

Northwest 13th Street and Northwest First Avenue

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