Florida Moves to Ban Homeless Sleeping on Streets

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Florida Moves to Ban Homeless Sleeping on Streets

The GOP-controlled Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that aims to prevent homeless people from sleeping in public places.

In a 82-26 vote along party lines, Florida lawmakers approved HB 1365. It prohibits counties and municipalities in the state from “authorizing or otherwise allowing public camping or sleeping” on public property. The bill also allows for funding for homeless shelters while providing designated areas for people to stay in. These areas would need to provide running water and access to utilities such as restrooms, as well as be alcohol- and drug-free zones.

The state of Florida had the third-highest homeless population in the country as of 2022, with nearly 26,000 people listed as experiencing homelessness on any given night, according to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

Homelessness in Florida
Homeless people are lying in a makeshift shelter on a sidewalk in Miami on August 4, 2021. Florida lawmakers have passed a bill that would prevent homeless people from sleeping in public.

CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images

The legislation, which has already been supported by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, was brought forward by Republican state representative Sam Garrison.

“This bill takes steps towards addressing the crisis of chronic homelessness by prohibiting public sleeping or camping on public properties or public rights of way while simultaneously making allowances for secure safe areas for those who have no other place to go,” Rep. Garrison said on the House floor on Friday, reported Florida’s Voice news outlet.

“This is not a bill designed to put people out of sight, out of mind. It’s quite the opposite,” Garrison added, via Fox News. Newsweek emailed Rep. Sam Garrison for comment on Saturday.

“When it gets to a point where the problem exceeds the resources to address it, the cost of dealing with it on the back end is inevitably 10 times what it would be on the front end.”

During the debate on the House floor, Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani asked if a homeless person could be arrested if they choose not to stay at the designated areas approved by the state.

“Our bill does not describe criminal penalties. We leave it to the local jurisdictions to make a determination about what’s the best way to address the problem,” Garrison replied.

The House rejected a series of amendments to the bill put forward by Democrats. These included one to ensure homeless parents and children are kept together, and another that would have banned perpetrators of domestic violence from being allowed in the designated shelters.

In February, DeSantis said he supports the plans to crack down on public homelessness in the state, so Florida does not “become San Francisco.”

“It’s got to be done in ways focused primary on ensuring public order, ensuring quality of life for residents, ensuring that people’s property values are maintained, ensuring that businesses are able to operate,” DeSantis said in a February 5 press conference.

After clearing the House, HB 1365 now moves to the Senate for approval. If it also passes through the upper chamber, the legislation will take effect from October 1.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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