A dispute is raging between a South Florida doctor and the Miami-Dade County agency in charge of the area’s homeless population.
The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust says they’ve gone all out for weeks to protect the homeless from the coronavirus. But, Dr. Armen Henderson is criticizing their approach.
Both sides say their hearts are in the right place and recognize that the homeless population is at a higher risk for getting COVID-19.
On Friday, Dr. Armen Henderson was out performing COVID-19 tests in downtown Miami.
“Here we are today seeing thousands of homeless people on the street during a pandemic,” Henderson said. “We tell people to shelter in place and yet they have no shelter.”
Just last week, a video of Henderson went viral. It showed a Miami police officer detaining him for several minutes in front of his own home. Police said they received a call of someone dumping items.
Henderson was not arrested.
Now Henderson says he plans on stepping in and filling a void in what the county has done to help the homeless.
“We’re here to serve the homeless community of Miami Dade County. To call attention to the fact that the city and the county has not done what we think they could have done to protect this community in times of the pandemic,” Henderson said.
Henderson wants to put up outdoor showers, toilets, and tents - a move he says is not being supported.
“We’ve got nothing but pushback from the county - specifically the Homeless Trust,” Henderson said.
The head of the Homeless Trust, Ron Book, disagrees with Henderson’s statements.
“For Dr. Henderson to imply that we have not been active and aggressive when we have had 476 staff people putting their lives at risk,” Ron Book said. “For someone to impune that commitment of those individuals is fraudulent.”
Book says, for 7 weeks, the trust has been giving out hand sanitizers and setting up hand washing stations.
On Thursday, volunteers were seen administering COVID-19 test kits, which Book says recently arrived.
“The fact of the matter is Miami Dade County’s Homeless Trust is the only continuum in the state of Florida that has been proactively testing vulnerable persons on the streets,” Book said.
Book added that Henderson’s idea of putting up tents for the homeless is exactly the wrong way to go because it would end up having the homeless congregate in the same area — exactly what medical experts are telling the public to avoid.
The trust says hotel rooms are the way to go and they have placed some of the homeless there, and also have three areas to quarantine those who test positive.