Florida set to ban homeless from sleeping on public property

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida will ban thousands of homeless people from setting up camp or sleeping on public property under a bill lawmakers sent to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who supports the idea.

Counties, with approval from the state Department of Children and Families, would be able to designate areas for the homeless to camp for up to a year under the bill the Senate passed 27-12 late Tuesday. Anyone using those encampments would be prohibited from using alcohol or illegal drugs.

Supporters say the bill will help eliminate the nuisance of homeless people living on public property and parks. They also argue it will be easier to provide local services to the homeless if they’re in one location.

“It’s our responsibility to deal with homelessness and that’s why we can’t wait any longer to bring this solution. The current model is not working,” said Republican Sen. Jonathan Martin, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill is a compassionate response to the shortage of shelters.”

Martin said about 30,000 Floridians don’t have a home, and about half of them don’t have shelter.

But opponents said the bill is simply an effort to gather up the homeless and get them out of public view.

“This bill does not and it will not address the more pressing and root cause of homelessness,” said Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones. “We are literally reshuffling the visibility of unhoused individuals with no exit strategy for people who are experiencing homelessness.”

Opponents also said there’s nothing in the bill that ensures sexual offenders and children won’t be living in close proximity in the government-designated encampments, or that the encampments will be safe and sanitary.

The bill defines public camping as “residing overnight in a temporary outdoor habitation used as a dwelling or living space and evidenced by the erection of a tent or other temporary shelter, the presence of bedding or pillows, or the storage of personal belongings.”

It wouldn’t apply to people sleeping in legally parked vehicles.

It will take effect Oct. 1 if signed by DeSantis.

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