On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, Leon County Commissioners will hear an update on a request they made during the December 14 meeting to draft new laws regarding solicitation, camping in public areas, and public defecation or urination.
In December, the commissioners, in a 4-3 vote, requested county staff to draft an ordinance that repeals Chapter 11, Article VIII of the Code of Laws, Entitled Solicitation on Public Street. The draft addresses the increasing complaints by residents related to individuals experiencing homelessness who are soliciting, camping/sleeping, and defecating or urinating in certain public areas.
Tallahassee Reports has previously covered this issue.
In the ordinance, the term “solicitation” refers to activities such as selling items or soliciting charitable donations, often conducted within medians. According to the report, the draft ordinance “would make it unlawful to hold a sign in a median for any reason and would apply countywide (inclusive of the City of Tallahassee).”
In addition, the ordinance recommends the penalties be consistent with statutory penalties, which are currently $15 per violation. Lastly, for those concerned with their right to free speech, the sidewalks would remain available to do so.
Regarding camping/sleeping in public areas, the ordinance declares “a person would be prohibited from camping in a public area without the permission of the property owner.” Public areas are defined as “public property and private property which is open to the public or in public view;” examples are parking lots, driveways, and parks.
A Street Outreach Team member, a person trained to provide information about available social services, will reach out to an individual who is found to be camping/sleeping in a public area without permission. The team member will determine if a shelter is needed and will aid in connecting them with those sources.
Finally, if the homeless individual refuses the offered assistance, the person may be cited as a violation under the ordinance. Law enforcement may obtain compliance through “warning, notice, or education” and may do so only after the Street Outreach Team member has made efforts to give aid.
If a person does not comply and law enforcement cannot obtain compliance, then a violator may be charged with a misdemeanor. If convicted, “the violator is subject to a fine not to exceed $500 or up to 60 days imprisonment or both.”
Concerning public urination or defecation, the ordinance makes it illegal in certain public areas not designated for that use. The proposed penalty is a $50 fine.
Currently, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office is in the process of hiring and training two Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) Deputies. During the December 14 meeting, the commissioners approved the allocation of approximately $491 thousand in funding to support the HOST deputies. The HOST deputies’ responsibilities focus on connecting individuals to available housing and various social services and programs.