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Pilot Program Provides 'Pit Stop' For Miami's Homeless

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- The homeless situation in downtown Miami is a reality that you can't ignore and new program is looking to do just that.

City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado announced Monday the second phase of the Pit Stop Pilot Program in which the city investing a quarter of a million dollars to build permanent public bathrooms. The first one will be by the MetroRail and Flagler Street.

"The idea is to build three permanent public bathrooms for the use of the homeless but also the use of anyone," said Regalado.

The city has been testing out the program this past year saying more than 16,000 people have used the facilities. The highest usage was during the Ultra Music Festival at Bayfront Park.

"The success of the program has been actually having monitors and staff at the bathrooms all the times it's open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.," said Jennifer Rodero with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

The DDA said this pilot program creates an opportunity for people looking for a job.

"They are part of a program at Camilla's House that we fund – that the DDA funds – they're out there monitoring and cleaning so that there is no illegal activity happening at the restrooms," said Rodero.

"I think they're very good because, the homeless, they're going to have a place to do their stuff – instead of outside on the street," said Miami resident Ron Levy.

Miami residents and business owners we spoke to say they are glad there will be permanent facilities.

"I'm from Europe. I live in New York City and I live in the West Coast – a big city like Miami should have public restrooms," said Sammy Hayatt who works at The Polo Supremo.

While most say programs like these improve the city's sanitary issue – there are some who believe it encourages the homeless element in downtown.

Mayor Regalado says the homeless issue in downtown Miami isn't going away – the least we can do is offer basic necessities.

"The least we can do is give them dignity so that they can go to the bathrooms and move on…I don't think that encourages people….like I don't think feeding the homeless encourages people," said Regalado.

They will begin building the first permanent bathroom in October and it will be open to the public by December.

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