A landmark federal settlement that granted Miami's homeless more rights than the general public is a judge's signature away from being watered down for the first time in almost two decades.
Miami commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to approve a new agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union that will make it easier for police to arrest the city's homeless for what have long been considered life-sustaining activities.
The homeless will no longer be permitted to build fires in parks to cook or to build makeshift tents to sleep in. They can still sleep on sidewalks, but only if they don't block the right of way of pedestrians.
Exposing themselves to go to the bathroom or to clean up would still be allowed, but not if they're within a quarter of a mile of a public restroom. Also, convicted sex offenders who are homeless would no longer receive the same life-sustaining benefits as other homeless people.
The city petitioned the courts for changes to the 16-year old so-called Pottinger settlement last summer, arguing the old rules were antiquated because of a dramatic shift in demographics in downtown Miami the past decade, as the population more than doubled and dozens of restaurants and cultural venues opened. The city and its Downtown Development Authority contend the remaining homeless are a constant bother to restaurant patrons and nearby homeowners.
The ACLU rejected the position, saying even with the demographic changes, nothing has changed for the 500 or so chronic homeless people who remain in Miami, and who for years have fought any help that has been offered.
In December the two sides came to terms after an intense mediation process.