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Homeless in Florida

DeSantis signs law prohibiting the homeless from sleeping in public spaces

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Wednesday that will prohibit cities and counties from allowing individuals and families to sleep and camp on public property.

“It will help maintain and ensure that Florida streets are clean and that Florida streets are safe for our residents,” DeSantis said at a press conference held at a Greek restaurant in South Miami Beach.

DeSantis once again emphasized that he does not want any community in Florida to resemble cities on America’s west coast that have had problems handling their homeless population in recent years, first and foremost San Francisco.

FL Channel screenshot of Ron DeSantis signing law on the homeless in Miami Beach on March 20, 2024.

“We have to govern this state and our communities with an eye towards what’s in the best interests of the law-abiding citizens, what’s in the best interest of families who are trying to raise kids, what’s in the best interests of our seniors who are here to retire, that’s what it’s gotta be, and too often, it’s like people in other states and other cities around that aren’t doing well, it’s like they let the inmates run the asylum, “ he said. “That doesn’t work.”

Critics say the new law (HB 1365) criminalizes the homeless, but the law is silent about what would happen to individuals who refuse to leave a public property when asked to do so by law enforcement.

The law does allow for counties to sponsor a location for the homeless for one year, if it follows certain criteria, beginning with documenting that there are not sufficient open beds in homeless shelters; that the property would not “adversely and materially” affect the property values of the safety and security of nearby properties, and that it provide access to clean restrooms and running water and provides treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues.

If any of those items aren’t properly addressed, the law allows a local resident or business owner or the Attorney General to bring a civil action in court. The law exempts certain counties, mostly in rural areas of Florida.

In the Florida’s Council on Homelessness most recent annual report published by the Florida Department of Children and Families, a total of 30,809 individuals were identified as homeless from the last “Point in Time Count” data, which is based on January 2023 figures. “This represents a 19.1% increase in the number of individuals identified from the prior year.”

And in the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published in December 2023, the Florida counties of Hardee, Hendry and Highlands are listed as the second highest rate of unsheltered homelessness in the country.

Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner praised the new state law at the press conference, noting that Miami Beach approved their own ordinance last year that allows law enforcement to arrest homeless people if they decline being placed in a homeless shelter. But he added that it was “compassionate” legislation, because it included funding for substance use treatment and mental health treatment.

The law signed by DeSantis on Wednesday includes tens of millions of dollars in the 2024 state budget on homeless initiatives. (However, the governor has to approve those dollars.)

Garrison said on Wednesday that the legislation shows that Florida is going to fight and protect its public spaces.

“Our parks, our libraries, the sidewalks we walk down. These things are worth fighting for,” he said.

The law will go into effect Oct. 1, 2024. However, a part of the law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2025, in connection with certain lawsuits.

Broward County Democratic state Sen. Rosalind Osgood, who has spoken about her own experiences of being homeless, said she was “deeply troubled by this law.”

“It’s imperative to recognize that behind the statistics and legislation, we are dealing with real people facing real struggles,” she said in a statement. “This approach strips away the humanity of those enduring homelessness, exposing homeless women and children to even more dangers. This law neglects the circumstances of homeless individuals listed on the Sexual Predator Registry, who are banned from residing in camps alongside children.”

Homeless, Florida, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida Phoenix, Homeless in Florida


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