Miami Officials Investigate Health Concerns Among Homeless Population

Needle caps and solution vials scattered across a vacant lot in Overtown illustrate the health concerns officials have with downtown Miami's homeless population.

On Sept. 19, officials with the Florida Department of Health informed the city of Miami that they were conducting a significant public health investigation related to the homeless population and the transmission of certain diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.

"There are diseases that are now being concentrated in this space because of the actions of the people who are breaking the law," said Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon. "We have a responsibility of doing something and doing something now."

Commissioners passed an emergency resolution last Thursday to temporarily block vehicular traffic under the Dolphin Expressway near NW 1st Avenue, NW 2nd Avenue and NW 13th Street. 

The Miami Police Department also set up surveillance cameras in the area to monitor drug activity. Police say they made seven narcotics-related arrests on just Wednesday.

“We are aware that there have been drug sales in the area and drug usage and our officers are vigilant," said Miami police commander Freddie Cruz. "Our commander in the area has created operations to try to minimize this activity."

Health officials requested a delay in disbursing the homeless population in the area, however, they said the request was not intended to impede on criminal investigations.

"A lot of people are self-medicating their personal issues," said Philip, who lives in the area. "They can’t cope regarding whatever their problem is.”

It's unclear how long the investigation with last and how long the roads will be closed.

The Florida Department of Health said in a statement to NBC 6 that it does not discuss ongoing public health investigations in accordance with Florida Statute 381.0031 (6) and Florida Administrative Code 64D-3.036.

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