(WSVN) - They are society’s banished, and once again, sex offenders in Miami-Dade County have set up a makeshift camp. Some say their poor living conditions pose a threat to the community. 7’s Nicole Linsalata has more in tonight’s 7News investigation.
On any given night, a group of 50 or more registered sex offenders call these railroad tracks in Northwest Miami-Dade home.
Tom, sex offender: “I was sentenced to 84 months in prison, and got sentenced to a 30-year probation.”
They stash their belongings where they can and sleep out in the open.
Greg, sex offender: “2008. Made a mistake on the computer. This is life now.”
They’re here because of a Miami-Dade County ordinance which says sex offenders cannot live within 2,500 feet of a school or places where children gather. Most can’t afford housing in approved areas, so their probation officers send them here.
Greg: “You don’t have a place to shower. You don’t have a place to use the restroom.”
County officials have been plagued by the roaming camps for years. Every time one camp is cleared, another one pops up.
Tom: “Herded up like a bunch of cattle.”
The American Civil Liberties Union says the ordinance pushes sex offenders into homelessness, putting them and the community at risk.
Nancy Abudu, ACLU Lawyer: “If someone comes out, they have a job, they have a stable place to live, the likelihood that they’re going to re-offend drops down significantly.”
The ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit challenging the restrictions, but the case was dismissed. The ACLU is appealing.
Ron Book: “I don’t support homelessness. But the restrictions didn’t create the problem; their sexually deviant behaviors created the problem.”
Ron Book wrote the ordinance after his daughter was sexually abused by her nanny. Book is chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. He says relaxing the current restrictions is not the answer.
Ron Book: “We should have a policy to provide some form of affordable housing that is built away from the general population so they can be better monitored and they can look after themselves.”
But such a facility could be years away. So, for now, these offenders call the railroad tracks home.
Greg: “You take one step forward and 50 steps backwards.”
Hoping the ACLU and Miami-Dade County can find a way to get them off the streets for good.
The ACLU hopes to make oral arguments in their appeal soon.
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