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Help For The Homeless Amid A Howling Hurricane

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As monstrous winds and drenching rains pelted the Miami area Sunday morning, some of the communities most at risk were still on the street.

CBS4 reporter Bianca Peterson and her photographer were on their way to their next location for a live report when they stopped at a red light in downtown Miami. As they were waiting several homeless people, who were taking shelter from the storm under a business’ overhang, came up to the news van asking for any food or water they could spare.

Not having emergency hurricane supplies with them, Peters handed out her own snacks that she had packed for the day – an energy drink and some nutrition bars.

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She didn’t have enough for the two dozen or so huddled up agains the building for protection.

When asked why they were still outside, one of the women said that someone was going to pick them up. The woman said there were people who had been around before to help the homeless and she was sure they were coming back to pick them up and take them somewhere safe.

When asked is she knew who these people were, the woman said she had no idea.

Peters said driving through the city, they saw several other groups of homeless people taking shelter where could against Irma’s whipping winds and rain.

Earlier in the week, Miami police along with social made a concerted effort to get the estimated 1,100 homeless people to a storm shelter. They were basically given a stark choice: come willingly or be held against their will for a mental health evaluation.

Invoking the “Baker Act” — a law that enables authorities to institutionalize patients who present a danger to themselves or others — is not something law enforcement does lightly, but officers detained at least six people by Friday afternoon. Under the law, they can be held up to 72 hours before the state would have to go to court to prolong their detention.

By that time, the worst of Irma will have passed and those detained will be released back on the street.

About 70 people willingly climbed into white vans and police squad cars on Friday, joining others who already arrived at shelters.
About 600 others were thought to remain outside somewhere, exposed to the storm, despite mandatory evacuation orders for more than 660,000 people in areas that include downtown Miami and coastal areas throughout the county.

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