Sex Offenders Live in Village Under Miami Bridge
Strict Miami laws leave few affordable housing options for sex offenders.
MIAMI, Sept. 3, 2009— -- In sunny Miami, many condos might not be worth a million dollars anymore, but the views still are. Zip across the causeways that connect the mainland to Miami Beach and it's as if you're leaving your troubles behind.
That is, unless you happen to be cruising along the Julia Tuttle Causeway and you slow down enough to look at the side of the road, where a tent community has formed along the water's edge.
No, it's not an adventurous form of urban camping or a recession-fueled shantytown. Instead, there is a distinctly permanent feeling to this scruffy encampment. And it's clear many of its residents don't want anything to do with inquisitive reporters.
That's because these residents are pariahs. They are sex offenders, a makeshift colony of outcasts who have set up camp under this overpass only as a last resort. When we visited there were 71 men living under and around the bridge.
One of the few men here willing to talk is Homer Barkley, 43, whose seemingly harmless appearance is at odds with the fact that he is a convicted sex offender: In 1992, he was sent to prison for 10 years for the attempted sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl.
Barkley is no fan of his waterfront home.
"It's not a million-dollar view to me," he said. "It's a shame on Miami."
Barkley arrived at the causeway after his release from prison in January 2008.
"When I got to the probation officer, he also told me I had to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. He also told me that I had to go to the drivers license place to put it on my driver's license," Barkley said, offering as proof his state ID with the bridge listed as his official residence.
"As if this is a residence. This is not my home address," he said. "My home is in Liberty City [a Miami neighborhood.] But I can't live there based on the ordinance."
Under the bridge, you hear a lot of talk about "the ordinance."
That's a reference to the residency restrictions Miami Dade County implemented in 2005, barring registered sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools. On top of that, state law creates a 1,000-foot buffer around schools, parks and playgrounds, and for offenders on parole, school bus stops.
There are also 24 cities within the county that have their own residency restrictions for sex offenders that often overlap the state and county rules.