VIRGINIA KEY, FLA. (WSVN) - Residents of Virginia Key and local groups came together to voice their outrage over city officials’ proposal to turn the northern part of the island into a homeless encampment.
Concerned parents and local groups held a protest on Saturday to make their voices heard against the proposal by City of Miami commissioners.
Esther Alonso, the owner of Virginia Key Outdoor Center, said the island is no place for any development at all.
“You’re taking the chronically homeless, shelter resistant population, bringing them to an isolated area, removing them from everything they know,” she said, “providing only mobile services and pretty much isolating them on an island two miles from the nearest roadway.”
Others argued the encampment would not only hurt the environment but also the homeless.
“I think the biggest impact is what it’s going to do environmentally and more so what it will do to our community,” said parent Nayomi Orriols.
Bernard Rivier, who designed a mountain bike trail on Virginia Key, also expressed concerns.
“It’s a park that’s enjoyed by families, by young kids,” he said.
Even Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava opposes the idea. In a memo obtained by The Miami Herald, she told city commissioners, “A transitional site far from basic services could exacerbate the problem.”
The mayor pointed out the potential environmental impact as well.
Miami-Dade County has paid more than $2.5 million over the years for restoration projects on Virginia Key.
“This is a city park. This is a park where families come, where children come. This is a place where the environment has rebounded,” said Alonso. “It is a beautiful natural area; we’re next to a preserve. This is not the place for any development at all, whether it’s a homeless encampment or a hotel or any other type of large structure.”
The city commissioner who proposed Virginia Key said it was the best spot because it’s far from residential areas.
City commissioners have not yet chosen a location for the encampment. They will hold a meeting in September to further discuss the proposal.
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