MIAMI (CBS4) – After 52 years of serving as an oasis for Miami’s homeless population, Camillus House in downtown Miami was demolished Monday. The sounds of crunching concrete filled the air Monday morning as Heat Fans cheered and lined the parade route outside of the AmericanAirlines Arena just one block away.
“We’re assuming the parade is for us,” joked Dr. Paul Ahr, Camillus House President and CEO.
As construction crews tore away at walls and fencing it was a bittersweet moment.
“I think that for the people who’ve worked here and lived here its like probably like seeing your grammar school get knocked down,” said Ahr. “There’s a lot of strong feelings.”
That was certainly the case for Thomas Bartlett, one of the hundreds of thousands of homeless people who have been helped by the shelter.
“This place of refuge will never go out of anybody’s mind,” said Bartlett. “It’s still there. It’s etched in our brains, because this is our beginning. However whenever God closes one door, he opens another.”
Bartlett said he became homeless because of a drug addiction.
“I just was at my end,” he remembered. “I felt like I was about to die. Not that someone was gonna kill me, not that I was worried about it, but I was killing myself.”
Bartlett decided he had had enough and went to Camillus house, a place that for the past 10 months has helped him steer clear of drugs and begin to transform his life.
“First of all they got me off the streets which was the most important,” he said. “It was my refuge.”
Bartlett and many others will now stay in the new 80 million dollar Camillus House facility at 1603 NW 7TH Avenue. The six building campus has a modern dining facility with numerous dormitory style rooms and much more. It is a new beginning after the end of an old era that helped changed the way Miami handled homelessness.