Item Coversheet



TO: Finance and Economic Resiliency Committee Members

Jimmy L. Morales, City Manager

DATE: January 13, 2020



The Mayor and Commission referred this item to the Finance and Citywide Projects Committee at its September 11, 2019 meeting and requested that the item be carried forward for further discussion. Commissioner Mark Samuelian is the sponsor.




Who are the homeless?

Homelessness is an international problem with local impacts. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Point-in-Time Count, there are 552,830 people experiencing homelessness in the United States on any given night. The point-in-time count is conducted by volunteers and staff twice a year in a countywide effort to count people who appear homeless. The most recent count, which was held on August 15-16, 2019. The count for Miami Beach was 169 --- an eight percent drop from the previous year. Miami-Dade County’s overall count was 1,148, a four percent increase.


The chart below tracks the annual January point-in-time count for the past four years as well as the actual number of self-identified homeless persons that the city has encountered through its Homeless Outreach Team and Police. As the data demonstrates, the population is highly transient. Furthermore, despite the relative stability of the Point-in-Time Count, the actual number of homeless people who have passed through our city is down by 25 percent since FY 15/16:

Data Source: City of Miami Beach Client Management Information System (CIMS) and Morning Counts


Thankfully, our city’s proactive homeless prevention efforts are effective at ensuring that few families become homeless in our city through proactive rent and utility assistance services. If a family does become homeless, the city provides immediate housing services including the use of hotels when shelters are at capacity or a family becomes homeless overnight. While there are homeless women in the city, the city’s homeless population is predominantly male1:

               1-The chart depicts the demographic breakdown for the August 15016, 2019 Point-in-Time Count.


The City currently provides homeless services to persons who live and/or work within the City as demonstrated by:

  • Last verifiable residential address within City including loving evictions

  • Eviction from verifiable address within City

  • Aged out of Miami Beach foster care home

  • Receipts for hotel stay within City within previous 30 days

  • Child’s enrollment in Miami Beach feeder pattern school

  • Discharges from Mount Sinai Medical Center with multiple hospital encounters over at least 30 days

  • Homeless persons served by the Miami Beach Library and St. Francis’ Church whose staff verify person’s status via their respective programs

  • Community members who can verify homeless status over at least a 30-day period

  • Verified non-housed resident as documented by street outreach encounters or police field contact forms as documented for at least 30-day period




What does the city do to address homelessness?

Our residents have ranked homelessness as their highest priority according to the 2019 City of Miami Beach Resident Survey with 22% ranking it as the most important city service and ranking satisfaction at 30%.


In order to serve the needs of our community’s homeless persons, the city provides a variety of services including:




Street outreach

Engage the homeless on the streets, in libraries, and houses of worship and avail them to services to end their personal homelessness

Walk-in center

Physical location that the homeless can go to get help

Shelter beds

Providing short-term housing to enable homeless clients the ability to access services and employment to end their personal homelessness

Care coordination

Strengths-based case management that supports individualized care plan designed for client independence and sustainable housing

Identification document replacement

Replace birth certificates, identification cards, work permits, etc. to enable employment and application for entitlements and housing

Employment transition program

Provides a 32-hours paid employment experience and new work and interview clothes for people transitioning from the streets to shelter and easing back into the workforce

Family/friends reunification

Reconnects a homeless person to natural supports who are willing and able to provide stability and a fresh start. The city provides bus transportation within the contiguous 48 states

Down payment/rent assistance

Provides security and/or down payment assistance to homeless clients who have established a sustainable income source that can support independent housing


Connecting homeless clients to day services and detoxification care

ACCESS Florida services

On-site application for state-managed entitlements including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and LifeLink cell phone providing clients a running start to stabilization and then employment

Client advocacy with Social Security Administration

For clients entitled to disability, retirement or survivors’ benefits, advocacy provides much-needed support and guidance through a complicated, burdensome process

Wage theft advocacy

Vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, are often victims of wage theft and are unfamiliar with the avenues available to reclaim what they have rightfully earned

Criminal records expungement

Arrests are a common experience for many homeless. Expunging these records can eliminate a barrier that prevents gainful employment which, in turn, can lead to independence

Lazarus Program outreach

Targeted mental health outreach for mentally ill, chronically homeless adults

Free tax preparation services

For low-income wage earners, the annual tax refund check is a fresh financial start. With free tax preparation services, homeless clients can access this personal resource and reposition themselves for independence (oftentimes in conjunction with the city’s rent assistance program)


The city is currently finalizing details for a joint effort with Miami Beach Community Health Center to provide outpatient addiction services for homeless adults who wish to end their addiction and are prepared to accept shelter and care coordination services. In addition, the city is also preparing a funding proposal to South Florida Workforce to align job placement services with outreach to expedite employment placement as part of the stabilization process from homelessness to independence.


While the city operates the only municipal homeless walk-in center, its most effective engagement tool is street outreach. In addition to its own outreach workers, the city partners with HOPE in Miami-Dade, Inc. to engage the faith community in outreach efforts. The city also works with Camillus House and resident volunteers to do outreach Monday through Friday.


What causes homelessness?

Homelessness is rarely caused just because a person loses their housing. Homelessness, as demonstrated through our client interactions and service histories and reported by Homeless Hub, is the culmination of a series of behaviors and events such as loss of employment, addiction, family disintegration, criminal behaviors, reticence to abide by society’s rules and expectations, lack of savings/financial resources, mental illness, etc. While a traditional Continuum of Care model presumes that the problem of homelessness is triggered when a person becomes homeless, the city’s engagement of the population has demonstrably shown that the factors of homelessness converge just before the actual loss of housing creating a destabilization that then leads to homelessness. The traditional model of homelessness is a linear experience that begins with the loss of housing and ends with the securing of housing.


All homeless clients were housed at some point in their life, experienced destabilizing events that threatened their housing, subsequently became homeless, and then sought a solution to their housing challenges that fit into their respective social framework (including personally-secured housing, government-supported housing and even ongoing homelessness). The graphic below, created by city staff to demonstrate a typical client service path, synopsizes this process through the client’s perspective.


A study recently published by the Los Angeles Times examined survey results from more than 4,000 point-in-time surveys conducted in Los Angeles. The survey found that “76% of individuals living outside on the streets reported being, or were observed to be, affected by mental illness, substance abuse, poor health or a physical disability.”


While our city offers shelter as part of its efforts to help the homeless, most of the city’s homeless persons decline services. Of the 1,480 people who self-identified as homeless this past fiscal year, only 442 accepted shelter. Alternatively, 206 adults accepted relocation services and very few availed themselves to any other service.


More so, an in-depth analysis of the homeless adults who received relocation services found that 81% had multiple homeless experiences prior to arriving to the city. Of these, 74% had an arrest history and 44% had been arrested for violent offenses. When relocated, only 53% returned to where they were before they came to Miami Beach. This data reinforces not only the transient nature of the population but also the behavioral factors that can influence their homelessness.


What do other cities do?

Homelessness is arguably one of the greatest social challenges confronting communities across America. From New York to California and on to Alaska and Hawaii, the cost and frustration of homelessness has spurred a variety of strategies with mixed results.

This year, the city of New Orleans touted the success of its Housing First efforts which prioritize the provision of housing for homeless persons who are chronically homeless and present a disabling condition. The report, which was shared through the Associated Press, “shows the number of chronically homeless — those with disabilities who have been on the street or in a shelter for more than one year — is down significantly, but the number of other homeless adults has increased by 20% in the past two years. And the number of families seeking shelter in New Orleans is up this year.”

Housing First is an expensive effort. The local area government assumes the private housing costs of these clients in addition to the operating costs for support services (such as mental health and addiction services) which are voluntary as Housing First clients are not compelled to address the conditions that lead to their individual homelessness. More so, the local government commits to continuing the housing subsidies until either the client chooses to assume the housing cost for himself, the client abandons the unit, or the client dies. Please note that clients can pay no more than 30% of their income towards housing costs when enrolled in a Housing First program which results in ongoing subsidies even when the client contributes towards the rent.

Miami Beach supports permanent housing for its homeless client in two ways: providing rent assistance to transition from shelter to private, sustainable housing and promoting the city’s First-time Homeowner Program which provides down payment assistance for first-time homeowners who provide 2% down.

In Seattle, the city has endorsed the use of homeless camps by providing internet access, waste receptacles and portable bathrooms as stopgap measures while resources were aligned to help the homeless access traditional services. Rather than reducing the number of homeless, “trends show that combined efforts of Puget Sound, including the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness… that the numbers experiencing homelessness in the region are continuing to climb.”

In Los Angeles, the homeless population has grown as more money has been invested in the problem. One of the initiatives initially lauded was the effort to provide restrooms for the homeless. When the proposal for restrooms was first undertaken, the cost was minimal and was immediately approved for funding. According to the Los Angeles Times, the City of Los Angeles “has estimated that staffing and operating a mobile bathroom can cost more than $300,000 annually. During budget talks this spring, city officials estimated that providing toilets and showers for every homeless encampment in need would cost more than $57 million a year.” As the discussion regarding increased costs continues, “the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority recently reported that the homeless population grew by 16% in the city this year, reaching more than 36,000.”

Los Angeles followed San Francisco which was the first to launch mobile bathrooms to serve the homeless. In San Francisco, the toilets cost roughly $200,000 each to operate annually, depending on the hours, said Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for San Francisco Public Works, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. In 2019, San Francisco reported that 8,011 people met the federal definition of homeless, an increase of 17 percent from 2017.

Why does the city employ multiple strategies?

In addition to shelter, the city offers a variety of services that are foundational to employment, housing and entitlements including the replacement of birth certificates, state-issued identification and lost or expired immigration documents, among others. Homeless clients may access these services even if they decline shelter or relocation services. By making these services available, homeless clients may take charge of their circumstances and solve their personal homelessness on their own terms without the structured framework of shelter and care coordination which are meant to provide support and guidance through a tumultuous and challenging process.

The city’s various strategies and services balance the need to end homelessness with the individual’s right to self-determination and independence. Our supports, including shelter and rent assistance, are meant to leverage a person’s decision to end their personal homelessness with the services needed to achieve independence.

What happens when the 555 building is demolished?

The 555 building, which currently houses the walk-in center, is slated for demolition. Efforts to find alternate programming space has been challenging as prospective neighbors do not want homeless services next to their businesses. As such, the team has been exploring a variety of mobile models including the use of a mobile office or recreational vehicle to create a “mobile walk-in center.”

The city’s Risk Management Office conducted a safety analysis of the walk-in center and noted various concerns associated with employee safety. Currently, the city employs an armed security guard in the walk-in center to address issues that arise with inebriated and unruly clients. These safety concerns are magnified with mobile office vehicles as they provide limited space and mobility and pose a potential risk for city staff engaging persons in close quarters.

The administration favors a hybrid mobile outreach model that employs city staff to engage homeless clients on the street and processes them for placement and services at a determined secured site to minimize the amount of time clients spend in vehicles. Clients would access services through street outreach and pre-designated pick-up points citywide (such as the city facilities like the police department and major congregation points such as Ocean Drive) that would be serviced through a fixed pick-up schedule. Office space would be needed to manage files and coordinate services while clients would not need to physically access an office to get help. The staff office would not be a drop-in center.  The City of Miami currently employs a fully mobile homeless services model and maintains administrative offices for staff.

The city’s police department currently refers homeless persons to services and can provide shelter placement during night, weekend and holiday hours. This service, which utilizes the same resources as the Homeless Outreach Team, ensures that people access services even when the Homeless Outreach Office is closed.



The city employs a variety of strategies and services to support homeless persons’ decision to end their personal homelessness. These efforts have resulted in a 25% decrease in homelessness in the past four years. As noted in the city’s 2019 Strategic Plan, the city will continue to explore innovative and sustainable ways to address homelessness. However, it has an urgent need to relocate it’s the staff housed in the 555 building which is slated for demolition.


The adminstration proposes a mobile outreach model that emphasizes street outreach and pre-designated outreach pick-up points to ensure that the homeless in our community can access help when ready. Administrative offices are still needed to house staff maintaining files and coordinate clients services. However, since clients would be engaged in the field, there would be no need for clients to visit the office eliminating the largest obstacle to securing a site thus far.

Applicable Area

Not Applicable
Is this a Resident Right to Know item? Does this item utilize G.O. Bond Funds?
No No