Spike in complaints about people living in sheds, unsafe structures in Miami-Dade County

(WSVN) - It’s the last place you would want to live in the South Florida heat, but more and more people are living in abandoned trucks, illegal sheds and other unsafe structures. The Nightteam’s Brian Entin investigates.

Police officer (in body camera video): “He noticed a kid, between 5 and 6 years old, living in a U-Haul truck, and the mother is nowhere to be found.”

In police body camera video obtained by 7News…

Man (in body camera video): “It’s horrible. Filthy. Dirty.”

You see Miami-Dade officers responding to a rural Southwest Miami-Dade property. They find a little boy — dirty and alone — living in the back of this abandoned U-Haul Truck.

Police officer (in body camera video): “Hola! It’s OK!”

Paramedic (in body camera video): “He just has a lot of bites, you know, probably from the bed bugs.”

And he’s not the only child living here in unsafe conditions. In June, we showed you two other children alone on the property. We also found trailers and sheds where people were living.

Brian Entin: “Hello? Anybody here? Hello?”

The conditions shocked us but come as no surprise to the county.

Brian Entin: “How big of a problem has this become?”

Chaveli Moreno, Miami-Dade County: “There has been an increase. We have seen an increase. Again, we’re complaint driven, so we have seen an uptick monthly on the complaints coming in.”

Complaints about people living in sheds and unsafe structures have doubled over the last few years from 150 complaints in 2017 to 300 in 2018.

Chaveli Moreno: “It’s not a situation that you want to put a family member or somebody in the community in, and that can cause harm. It’s a risk that we’re not willing to take.”

The problem is widespread across Miami-Dade County. On a property near Cutler Bay, code enforcement officers found people living in a shed.

Inside, you see a dresser, bed, microwave and fridge, and on a property near Tamiami Park, two big sheds with a bathroom and a kitchenette inside.

Chaveli Moreno: “The moment that there is electricity connected to these, it poses a big life safety issue.”

The county recently passed a new law that only allows one shed per property, and when code enforcement finds someone living in a shed or unsafe structure, they can now immediately declare it unsafe. That gets the power shut off.

Nathan Kogon, Miami-Dade County: “Residential uses are strictly prohibited. That’s where I think it adds some teeth.”

The county says people living in these unsafe conditions is the result of the affordable housing crisis. People can’t afford sky-high rents, and some are desperate for a place to live.

One solution: Developing unused lots like this one.

The county will give developers land and speed up the permitting process if they build apartments people can actually afford.

Places families can feel at home instead of sheds, trailers and the back of trucks.

County inspectors tell 7News they found six unsafe structures on the property where the boy was living in the U-Haul. Their investigation is ongoing.


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