In a Shanty Town outside of… Downtown Miami?
Speaking of the spiralling cost of Miami real estate, has anyone else out there been following the Take Back the Land campaign? On a city-owned lot at the corner of Northwest 62nd Street and 17th Avenue, activists and homeless people have come together in a protest/community dubbed Umoja Village. The brainchild of activist Max Rameau, Umoja Village, according to a recent op-ed piece in the Miami Herald, consists of “32 makeshift homes — wooden pallets covered with painted cardboard — filled to capacity with 40 residents, including a family with an eight-week-old baby. There’s even a waiting list.”
This begs the questions: How bad off do you have to be to put yourself on a waiting list to live in a shanty town? And what kind of operation is Miami running where residents would prefer to live on a bunch of pallets and beat up couches rather than anything that the city can provide?
Part of the point of Umoja is to draw attention to the failure of Miami’s city government to provide affordable housing. The affordable housing crisis (highlighted in the Herald’s House of Lies series last summer) has been abetted by the city’s mismanagement of funds and destruction of 500 units of public housing between 1998 and 2000. These public housing units have yet to be replaced, even as luxury developments have boomed throughout Miami-Dade. Take Back The Land hopes to make this point all the more effectively in the media spotlight that will come with Miami’s hosting of the Superbowl from Jan. 29 to Feb. 3rd.
Just this week, Take Back the Land won a major political victory when the City Commission voted to table an ordinance that would have given Miami Police the right to evict homeless people from city owned vacant land.
It’s disturbing, effective and I gotta say I’m not quite sure what to make of it all, but I’m fascinated and wondering what anyone else thinks.