Armed standoff with homeless woman is among red flags of housing crisis in South Florida

Officers face reality of housing crisis in South Florida

By Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIAMI - A 13-hour tense standoff between an armed woman and a SWAT team in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood was a reminder of the ongoing affordable housing crisis in South Florida. 

Miami Police Department officers found the woman Tuesday and surrounded her car with armored vehicles. She eventually got out of the car, which had a flat tire. No one was injured.

Sgt. Freddie Cruz, a spokesman for the police department, said the woman, who witnesses described as a "sweet lady," was getting the help that she needs.

Officers said she had a handgun on the console and her car had a Florida tag registered at Camillus House. Aside from providing food and access to social workers, Camillus House helps homeless people to receive mail as well.

"The reason we provide mail services is precisely so that people have a place to be able to receive documentation as they are making their way through a process," said Hilda Fernandez, of Camillus House. 

Police officers are facing the reality of the housing crisis, in an area where experts say homelessness is one paycheck away for too many. The woman's car was parked for days near an area that art lovers visit regularly and where there is, at times, unimaginable wealth. 

William Fields, of the Salvation Army, said the income disparity in the area has an impact on the homeless community. Amid their hunger and despair, a homeless person will see people Bentleys or Ferraris driving by. 

"That can be even more of a downer for people," Fields said.  "They can't make it and they have tried so hard." 

This United Way's Study of Financial Hardship determined almost half of the people living in South Florida, even with jobs and careers, do not make enough to afford to live in Broward, Miami Dade or Monroe counties.  This means many in South Florida standing in one spot can struggle to pay their rent near multimillion dollar condos. 

Andrew Lenahan, of the First Florida Affordable Housing, wants this to change. He builds affordable housing. His office is near to where officers found the scared woman in her car. 

"I think they have the right initiatives, the right ideas," Lenahan said. "It is just a function of being able to provide more supply and create more opportunity for the workforce community to be able to rent." 

 

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