See the updated comments from a person who contacted these ex-sex offenders to get the REAL truth, below.
By ARI ODZER
Normal life after living under the bridge
We'll call him Charlie. That's not his real name, but Charlie has a real job driving a van, delivering packages, being responsible. Pretty good for a convicted sex offender who spent six months living in the infamous camp under the Julia Tuttle causeway.
"Life is much better now," Charlie says. "Able to get a job, enjoy myself, my family, not worry about sleeping outside anymore."
Charlie is one of the success stories. The Homeless Trust has placed every one of the nearly 100 former bridge residents into apartments, paying up to six months of each person's rent, but only about a third of them, like Charlie, have taken advantage of job training and placement services.
"The program is an excellent program, they do their best to set you up with a job, set you up with a place to stay," Charlie told us.
"We don't run a welfare program, that's not what the Homeless Trust is," said Ron Book, volunteer director of the Trust. "Our programs are about providing services to get people off the streets, to help them find employment, to make them self-sustained. But you can't solve everybody's problems."
Book has led the effort to resettle the sex offenders into apartments that meet the laws restricting where they can live.
"I think we've done the best we could, " Book says. "I think the community's done the best it could. Look, there's no sympathy out there for predators, offenders and pedophiles, I certainly don't have any."
The bridge area is fenced off, the colony of sex offenders which once existed there is just a memory. Charlie told us his time there was like a nightmare.
"It was rough," the father of three said. "As a family guy, you don't want your family down there but then again you want to be with them and it was just hard."
So what happens when the assistance money to pay leases runs out? Pointing out that it's cheaper to prevent someone from becoming homeless than it is to get them off the streets, the Homeless Trust will still help the offenders, like Charlie, who are working. The rest are on their own.
"I'll tell you what's not gonna happen, they're not going back to the Julia Tuttle Causeway," Book said.
Charlie's not looking back. He knows he's lucky to have a second chance.
"I am blessed with everything," he says.
I just got off the phone with three former JTC residents.
Here is an update:
"Currently living outside of the parking lot of the Florida Department Of Corrections"
9 men are currently living outside in the parking lot of the location at N.W. 36 Avenue & 167 Street.
8 men are currently living outside in the parking lot of the location at N.W. 27 Avenue & 79 Street.
- These numbers are just for these ( 2 ) locations, reported to me by people from there that I am in contact with. Keep in mind that there are a number of correctional offices throughout the county. And since the RSO population, is not a static population. Those that are being released from prison every month end up as "Transient" be it on Miami-Dade streets, or living outside on the departments parking lot.
"In the Homestead, Fl. area"
I know of ( 2 ) former "JTC" residents, that will be out in the streets in the coming days. They have been put through the evictions process because they are unable to pay their rent after the Homeless Trust stopped making payments to the landlords.
Remember the famous trailer park that most of the causeways dwellers had been relocated to? Which in my personal opinion, the causeway was 100 better than this trailer park.
Well... I have been informed through the RSO grape vine, that payments for their rents have stopped there as well. Some have been told they must vacate, and have had 3 day notices posted on their doors. And only one or two are sub-renting their trailer units to others, at a reasonable fee which is helping by supplementing that persons income.
One of the men who I spoke with, see's other people whom lived at the causeways edge when he goes to his "MDSO" program. Some have been living on street corners since the causeway closed down. And some whom are staying in remote parts of the city, and had the assistance provided by the trust are also commenting, that they too will be homeless again very soon.
On another note: At one of the locations I mentioned above. One of the men, while sleeping on a cart board box, had his cell, a radio and his watch stolen while he was sleeping. The perpetrator was recorded on the departments surveillance cameras, and has been reported to the police and other correctional officers. They don't think the person in question was a RSO who sleeps there.
SO YOU SEE, YOU CANNOT RELY ON ANYTHING THE MEDIA OR ANYONE ELSE SAYS IS TRUE, YOU MUST INVESTIGATE IT FOR YOURSELF!!