Miami To Declare Some Homeless As ‘Insane’ And Takes Them To Hurricane Shelters

hurricane irma homeless

Hurricane Irma is an impending catastrophic tragedy that is less than 48 hours away from Miami, Florida. It could potentially cause billions of dollars in damage and also carries with it the potential massive loss of lives. Currently, Hurricane Irma is a category 4, but it is once again strengthening and teetering on re-emerging as a category 5. It’s extremely dangerous. Many Floridians have jammed both the 75 freeway (runs west out of Fort Lauderdale then north from Naples, beyond Tampa) and the 95 freeway (runs north from Miami through Savannah, Georgia, which is also evacuated, beyond to New York).

Mandatory evacuations don’t mean you are forced to evacuate, it means that the Government shuts down emergency services to those mandatory evacuation declared zones. If you stay, you don’t get medical help or assistance from the police or fire department. But for Miami’s homeless community, the city intends to declare them “insane” for not wanting to seek out shelter and commit them to a shelter.

“It’s my experience that those individuals who have been unwilling to come off the streets, they all have mental health issues,” Ron Book told the Miami Herald. “They are a danger to themselves … we will go in and have all of them Baker Acted.”

Book is the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. Book is referring to the Baker Act that was enacted in Florida in 1971. It is a Florida Mental Health Act that allows the involuntary institutionalization and examination of a person suspected of being insane. An examination can last up to 72 hours. In the case of Hurricane Irma, the assumption is that the “examination” would last until Irma subsides. There are a couple of potential results here: A person could be freed following Hurricane Irma’s passing or they could be involuntarily committed if deemed to be truly insane.

Book’s Homeless Trust believes there to be around 10 to 20 of the 1,130 homeless people in the county who will refuse shelter from the state. The Trust has exhausted efforts to persuade them to come in from the streets and now intend to enact the Baker Act. Book took the opportunity to slight Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as a way to justify his decision. Involuntary Committals are starting today.

This is rough territory. Of course, we want to care for our homeless community, however, should we be giving the state such authoritarian power as to declare anyone not taking shelter as “insane.” Slippery slopes are ultra important here. If the State can declare a person insane for not seeking shelter, doesn’t that seemingly open the door for the State to declare insanity labels upon other people for various other reasons? Remember, breaches of our security and privacy often come under the guise of helping to protect us. Of course, forcing the homeless into a shelter during a potentially devastating hurricane could protect their lives. However, the new concern following would be the greed of the state.

I think it is also important to realize that many homeless people refuse shelters because they’ve been harmed in some way. Homeless shelters, in some areas, can be places which expose homeless people to crimes such as rape. The question, in this case, is should the State have authority over a group of peoples who do not choose to protect themselves during a hurricane? I mentioned “slippery slope” earlier, because now we must ask if the State should have full authority over removing people who choose not to flee mandatory evacuation zones. Remember, the State does not have to send (and will not send) emergency personnel to these people during the storm. Everyone’s idea of how to survive a hurricane might not be the same, something we are seeing exposed on social media.

I am sure many people will be hysterical towards me for bringing to light this perspective, however, I do believe it to be important that we consider any moves like this to be a move that could inevitably affect us down the road in more nefarious ways. Giving the State such a loose and broad ability to declare insanity is too much power.

What do you think? Leave us a comment.

Hurricane Irma remains a major threat to Florida. As Floridians now leave the state, gas trucks are being led in by police escort. Hurricane Irma has yet to turn. Once she does, that will give everyone a solid indicator as to where Irma’s devastating eye will make landfall.

Author: Jim Satney

PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.

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