Homeless problem in Miami Dade County

Homelessness in Miami Dade county has been a growing problem as the number of those affected has always in the past been on the rise but has since then been significantly controlled. This problem had risen to the level of concern to the Miami Dade County planners and to other well wishers who over time have devised ways through which they could help these individuals. In deed, through their concerted efforts the problem has now been greatly reduced. This research paper will specifically focus on the issue of homelessness sin Miami Dade County. It will discuss the factors that lead to homelessness and the steps the government has taken to reduce homelessness in this region.

It is not easy to get the actual number of the homeless in Miami Dade County at any single time due to some factors such as the time of the year a survey is done, the weather at a particular period of time and also the methodology used which can lead to the variation of the outcome. Most people who are considered homeless in Dade County are homeless for short time and thus need short time assistance so that they would get on their feet in fact; it is only about 17 percent who are homeless on a long term basis. Though this is the case, the number of those that are homeless has significantly reduced for example, statistics available show that in 2004 there were 7057 people who were homeless but in 2006 the figure had reduced to 4709 (Camillus House).

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There are main factors that either directly or indirectly leads to homelessness in Miami Dade County and one of these is poverty. It is common knowledge that poor people have financial difficulties and for this reason they obviously find it hard to pay rent and thus they are left with no other good option apart from going to the streets. Another factor that exacerbates the situation is decline in job opportunities and housing. Lack of good job opportunities and low paying jobs has caused housing to be a luxury to the poor. Another reason why homelessness is a problem in Miami Dade County is the fact that public assistance has declined since welfare reform legislation was passed and applied. This lead to the people who were assisting the poor to assume that government would help them and thus stopped helping them. Through this, a lot of people are employed but the salaries they receive are not enough to make their lives any better (Podhajser). Still another cause is domestic violence. This is said to be the second most cause of homelessness in Dade County and the most affected people are women especially form poor households. When this happens, they are left with only two alternatives that is, to continue staying in abusive marriages or to go to the streets. Lack of affordable health care is also another contributory factor to the increased cases of homelessness in Miami Dade County. This happens when poor people who are struggling to pay rent fall sick.  The cost of paying for their health care and hospital bills becomes a burden and in most cases it drains the meager resources that they have making it quite hard for them to afford rent something that leads them to be evicted from their houses (Podhajser).

To solve and reduce this problem, the board of county commissioners created the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust in 1993. The main aim for the establishment of this Trust was to man and oversee what was referred to as the Miami-Dade County Community Homeless and to advice the board on ways to reduce homelessness. This trust does not offer direct assistance to the affected however its work is to see the implementation of all policies that are made by the board of County Commissioners for example to see that the food and beverages tax benefits the homeless. The money that the Trust uses to help the homeless comes from the government funding and the rest from the food and beverage tax and is approximated to be about 40 US million dollars annually (Miamidade.gov). The Trust also partners with other non profit making organizations aimed at helping the homeless such as the Community Partnership for Homeless (CPH) and they have succeeded in establishing what is referred to as the homeless assistance centers and today there are two of them. Due to the determination shown by Dade’s community, the rate of homelessness in this county has gone down by eighty seven percent. “Miami-Dade County became the first …where voters approved a food and beverage tax for the specific purpose of providing services to homeless people. Because of the investment, homelessness in Miami-Dade County has been reduced by 87 percent” (Book and Raymond)

According to a report that was released in 2009 by the County Homeless Advocates, panhandlers or the homeless on the streets get at least 40 US million dollars a year, a figure that seems to be exaggerated as if this is the case the issue of homelessness would have long ago been resolved. Perhaps this figure was aimed at discouraging well-wishers who part with some money to help these people. Again, disapproving these findings is a survey that showed that the annual fundraising campaigns done by the United Way of Miami-Dade collect only 54 US million Dollars last year even after liaising with other big companies (Stein and Viglucci).

The Miami Dade County Community Homeless Plan and the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust are two organization whose role they play in easing the burden of homelessness in Miami Dade County cannot be underrated in fact, it is due to their efforts that the figure of the homeless has been reduced from 8000 people to 1000 and that over five thousand permanent and other transitional housing beds have been established in Dade County all in an effort to help the homeless (Miamidade.gov).

In fact, the issue of homeless in Miami Dade County has been a real problem that has affected a score of residents. There are various factors that are cited to be the main cause of this problem and some of these include increased poverty, unaffordable healthcare, and domestic violence among others. Miami Dade’s County in partnership with other non profit making organizations have come together to control and reduce this problem and through their concerted efforts, the prevalence of homelessness has substantially gone down.