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The city of Miami ordered the demolition of a house in Liberty City late last month and let resident Michael Hamilton sleep in the rubble of his family home for two days before neighbors came to his aid and raised enough money for a hotel room.
Hamilton, a 70-year-old retiree, has confirmed there were issues with the house, including previous fire damage, broken windows, and a lack of electricity and running water. Photos and documents made available by the city clearly show that the house has “consistently undergone progressive deterioration”. But the house was Hamilton’s family home; It was a roof over one’s head. The demolition has put it on the streets in the middle of a pandemic and has now turned it into a community of the city.
Now the demolition has resulted in a possible change in the policy, despite Hamilton’s attorney asking if the change would have helped him before the house was demolished and if it would help others whose home might have been demolished in the future.
During yesterday’s Miami City Commission meeting, Commissioner Keon Hardemon sponsored a move to establish a process for sending courtesy messages to immediate neighborhood owners and social services organizations before unsafe structures are demolished.
The resolution says that the city should send a series of notices to property owners and other “legally interested parties”, but it may be helpful to also inform “local human resources” that such action is imminent if a person changes decides to come forward and seek help. “
Shortly after the Miami Herald posted the story of the demolition on August 29, Commissioner Ken Russell said on Twitter that while the city followed proper protocols before tearing down the house, those protocols are missing. Hardemon tweeted that he would sponsor emergency laws to help people like Hamilton. In an editorial for the Miami Times, Hardemon wrote that the demolition highlights a problem historically black communities have long faced.
“Like Mr. Hamilton’s parents, many of our ancestors bought houses in neighborhoods like Liberty City and started a black middle class in the city centers,” Hardemon wrote. “However, as those ancestors got older, the homes fell into disrepair because their children and grandchildren stopped investing in the homes or sold the homes to move to more desirable locations, particularly North Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.”
The commission’s meeting yesterday, the first since its demolition on August 26, gave commissioners as good an opportunity as anyone to talk about what happened to Hamilton and what help the city is offering. Instead, the commissioners unanimously approved the proposed measure – a pocket item that was not on the agenda of the meeting and was grouped together with other items – without discussion.
“Michael is in trouble because the city demolished his house,” said David Winker, Hamilton’s attorney. “It’s very frustrating and we’ll see what comes of it. It would have been very easy to say, ‘This happened’ during the meeting. Why didn’t you talk about it?”
Winker asks what changing the notifications will do. Perhaps an early notification of the neighbors would have alerted them to certain safety precautions that demolition companies should take, such as: B. installing fences and spraying water on the structure to prevent dust and potential asbestos from being thrown up as it is demolished. The neighbors told the New Times that they had received no notice of the demolition and were unaware that the house was about to be demolished. The neighbors also reported symptoms of cough, headache and nausea due to the contractor not following proper safety measures.
But Winker says if the measure had been taken, it would not have helped Hamilton or someone like him. There are still questions about whether city officials approved the demolition, despite knowing that Hamilton lived in the apartment, the Herald reports. Hamilton said he lived in the house for decades and notified the city a week before the demolition.
“I see this whole situation as when we unnecessarily created a community of the state,” says Winker.
Hamilton did not own the house he lived in. Before his mother died in 2016, his mother signed the deed to Hamilton’s cousin Richard Anderson of Gainesville. Hamilton previously told the New Times that Anderson looked after his mother after she was injured in a car accident while visiting a family in Gainesville. The Miami City Building Department posted notices to a PO box on Anderson’s behalf, and at least one of them came back unsolicited. (The New Times contacted Anderson several times with no response.)
Meanwhile, Hamilton laments that he lost the house he lived in for decades. Currently, Winker said, his client is being quarantined at a Red Roof Inn that the Homeless Trust has rented to ease the crowd in homeless shelters amid the pandemic. From there, he’s taken to an assisted living facility in North Miami while the city works to secure permanent housing.
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Alexi C. Cardona is an employee at Miami New Times. A native of Hialeah, she is happy to be home writing about Miami’s weirdness after working for the Naples Daily News for four years.