Sunday, August 16, 2009

The latest look at the Julia Tuttle bridge-dwellers

Pulitzer Prize winning St. Petersburg Times feature writer Lane DeGregory takes yet another look at the colony of sex-offenders living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway....and the man who helped put them there.
The state, the city and county, the Department of Corrections and the ACLU — none of them wanted to shove these people under a bridge. Even the man who got Miami to adopt stricter laws against paroled sex offenders says he is surprised at what he has wrought.

"It's a terrible situation for everyone, for the public and all those people living out there in third-world squalor," says Ron Book.

Book, a well-known lobbyist, is a walking contradiction. As the father of a girl who was molested years ago by a nanny, he's a fierce advocate for tougher laws against sex offenders. But as the chairman of Miami's homeless trust, he's supposed to look out for the people he helped put under the bridge.

"Those people out there know how I feel about them," he says. "But I've got to put my own emotions in check and figure out how to deal with all this.

"We didn't anticipate how big this problem could get."
DeGregory is the latest writer to focus on the bridge-dwellers since Isaiah Thompson of Miami New Times broke the story a year and half ago.

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