A Miami police officer turns on his flashlight and a beam of light cuts through the darkness, illuminating the silhouettes of six figures tucked into a nook beneath the Flagler Street Bridge.
They lay down on concrete tonight. But if they want a bed, they’ll get one. And if they want a new home, they might get that too.
Late Thursday and into Friday morning, 10 homeless outreach teams fanned out over 43 blocks of downtown Miami in search of potential occupants for dozens of new shelter beds and nearly 100 new apartments. The effort by the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and its partners was intended to help a chronic downtown homeless population that according to recent surveys is growing for the first time in years.
“We hoped it was an aberration, but it wasn’t,” said Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book, who was out in Miami Thursday night. “We needed a plan that was broader, and wider.”
In January, an annual survey showed that more than 1,000 people were living on the streets of Miami-Dade, up by 20 percent from the previous year. Book said a follow-up in August showed the numbers weren’t a fluke, and that downtown has experienced a “spike” in numbers. So in order to address the growing population — amid biting criticisms out of downtown that the Trust wasn’t doing enough for the area — the Homeless Trust launched what it calls Strike Force: Urban Core.