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When the Safety Net for Unsafe Structures is Left Hanging

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The Surfside condominium collapse tragedy prompted increased scrutiny on unsafe residential buildings throughout Miami-Dade. As a result, a steady cascade of condemnations has rendered hundreds of households homeless or at risk of homelessness. As unsafe structure reviews continue across Miami-Dade County, more condemnations are anticipated.

At the Homeless Trust’s September 10, 2021 Executive Board meeting, this very topic took center stage. Executive Director Victoria Mallette reported that more than $426,000 – not including staff costs – had been spent to support individuals, families, and pets evacuated from unsafe structures in the county. Since July 2, five condemned buildings with an estimated 360 units have been evacuated in Miami- Dade County. With no end in sight and solutions far from immediate, these cost burdens are straining the Trust’s resources, which have already been impacted by COVID-19 related expenses.

Sustaining the effort to assist so many during this prolonged emergency response is challenging. The Homeless Trust continues coordinating housing and services to ensure households are not left without a roof over their head.  We have with the help of our partners provided continuous emergency accommodations for families and their pets, as well as other services including food, access to mental health counseling, and assistance with identifying alternate permanent housing options together with start-up rental assistance to help offset move-in costs.  Partners including the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins have provided hot meals, toys and entertainment for those in the hotels.

As emergency and long-term recovery agencies develop a comprehensive communitywide approach to deal with future condemnations, additional legislation, policy and funding is needed to address this issue to ensure support for the displaced and  increase accountability on multifamily property owners.

While there are many success stories around the Trust’s management of this unexpected crisis, Homeless Trust Chair Ron Book says, “This recovery effort must be re-designed to assist residents forced from their homes with little to no warning at no fault of their own.