Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Miami Trip Reflection

As many of you know, I have been involved in planning a trip to Miami. Between Miami and the neighboring sandbar, Miami Beach, another small island exists. The island is just long enough north-to-south to house a six-lane highway with trees on either side. Thanks to Google Maps, you can search for "Julia Tuttle Causeway Miami, FL" and see the size of the island and the highway with the street view option.

Look to the southwest of that little island and you'll notice tents on the side of the highway. It should be no surprise that this little island is no campground. Who in their right mind would want to camp by the highway? Sure, you have a beautiful view of Miami and Miami Beach, but you have to listen to the cars all day and all night.

The people camped out along the highway and under the bridge are camping under compulsion of Miami City. The people under and around this bridge are sex offenders. Sexual offenses range include, among other things, sexual conduct between an adult and a minor, sexual relations between two minors (even if consensual), rape, and urinating in public. In Florida, sex offenders have a curfew, monitored by parole officers and technology akin to house arrest anklets. On top of this law, you cannot live within so many feet of a place where children might congregate (this law in Miami has been changing and I am not up to date on the latest distance).

Because of these overlapping laws, many registered sex offenders were forced to move out of their homes. Due to the lack of affordable housing leftover for sex offenders, the city of Miami forced sex offenders to live under the bridge of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The community has been made of men and women, from a handful of people to over 70.

About two weeks before our planned departure date, we learned a group in Miami went to the community and began moving the community. After four years, Miami finally did something, probably just to hide the city from bad publicity. They people were moved to apartments, campgrounds, motels--expenses paid for six months. Who knows what will happen after six months.

With about two weeks before our flights departed, we were blessed by the Miami Coalition for the Homeless. They work with a local feeding program they allowed us to volunteer with and fed let us meet with one of the formerly homeless men in their speakers' bureau.

So we went to Florida and visited with my grandparents in Palm Beach County before driving back and forth between Palm Beach County and Miami. We went to the bridge as a sort of pilgrimage where, to our surprise, we found people still living under and around the bridge.

I was confused, shocked, and upset. We could have put a lot of time into those people, but we didn't know they were there. We prayed under the bridge. I hope that did some good.

We got a few items for the people we saw and we talked very briefly. They were surprised to see us. They wondered why three college students would be under the Julia Tuttle Causeway during spring break. I hope we made them feel special. I hope we encouraged them to feel human.

We were a bandage on a serious wound. We weren't enough and felt covered in blood and puss. But, I have to remember bandages can promote healing, too.

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