Florida Senate Passes Bill Targeting Homeless Sleeping in Public

Credits: Los Angeles Times

A bill aimed at addressing homelessness by restricting public sleeping in Florida is now awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval. The bill, passed along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate, prohibits sleeping in public places like parks and public rights of way. It also requires local governments to address homelessness by providing safer alternatives for sleeping.

Proponents argue that the bill provides a compassionate response to homelessness by offering safer locations than sleeping on the streets. They believe it will encourage local governments to provide more shelter beds and permanent housing solutions.

However, opponents, mainly Democrats, argue that the bill lacks adequate resources for local governments to implement it effectively, potentially leading to lawsuits. They criticize the bill for merely shifting homeless visibility without providing a clear strategy to address homelessness.

Homeless Sleeping in Public (Credits: WMFE)

The bill allows local governments to designate certain properties for sleeping or camping, provided they meet specific standards set by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

These sites must offer amenities like restrooms, running water, security, and be alcohol- and drug-free. Residents and business owners would be allowed to file civil lawsuits against local governments for allowing illegal sleeping or camping on public property.

Fiscally constrained counties would be exempt from certain requirements if compliance would create financial hardship. However, critics argue that the costs for local governments could exceed $500 million and raise concerns about human trafficking in planned encampments.

Supporters of the bill point to the $30 million in challenge grants included in the state budget for local governments to provide mental health and substance abuse services, shelters, and safe-harbor sites.

DeSantis has expressed support for legislative efforts to address homelessness but has emphasized the need to avoid creating homeless camps that interfere with normal public activities.

The bill’s passage reflects ongoing efforts to address homelessness in Florida, but concerns remain about its effectiveness and potential impact on communities and individuals experiencing homelessness.

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