DeSantis Signs Homeless Restrictions

DeSantis Signs Homeless Restrictions

By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a controversial bill designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping in public places, continuing to say he doesn’t want Florida to become like places such as San Francisco.

DeSantis, who signed the measure (HB 1365) during an appearance in Miami Beach, said the bill will keep sidewalks from becoming “tent cities” and “ensure that Florida streets are clean and that Florida streets are safe for our residents.”

Democrats and homeless advocates who opposed the bill contended it would increase local-government costs and drive homeless people into wooded areas.

But DeSantis said the bill “is the absolute right balance” of providing safety while addressing issues facing people who have fallen on “hard times.”

“I don’t think there’s any other way you could approach it and expect to have a result different than what’s happened in places like San Francisco and New York City,” DeSantis said.

The bill will prevent cities and counties, starting Oct. 1, from allowing people to sleep on public property, including at public buildings and in public rights of way. It would allow local governments to designate certain property for sleeping or camping if the sites meet standards set by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Such areas, which could only be used for one year, would have to include access to such things as restrooms and running water, have security and be deemed alcohol- and drug-free. Also, the sites could not harm values of nearby properties or safety.

The law also will give legal standing to residents and business owners to file civil lawsuits against local governments that allow sleeping or camping on public property.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said the measure “targets individuals who are homeless and creates a scenario for local governments, where the only option — if they can’t meet the demands of the Legislature — is to potentially criminalize homelessness.”

“So, not only are we not offering clear solutions,” Eskamani said. “We’re actually making a bad situation worse and not helping people get out of that economic instability that they’re facing.”

Jeff Brandes, a former Republican senator who founded the non-profit Florida Policy Project think tank, cautioned the measure is an “unfunded mandate” on local governments.

“Nobody kind of said, ‘What happens next’ and followed the natural progression of that question,” Brandes said March 8 during an appearance on the “Florida This Week” program on WEDU in the Tampa Bay area. “I think when you get to the end of that, you realize people are still going to be living on the streets. Either the cities are not going to be able to do that or the jails are going to be full. And you’re going to hear from the sheriffs that you’re going to need to expand the jails.”

An annual report from the Florida Council on Homelessness released last June said “over the past five years, Florida has seen a 9 percent increase in the rate of Floridians experiencing ‘literal homelessness.’”

While acknowledging the accuracy of recent homeless counts were limited because of COVID-19 restrictions, the report pointed to issues such as rising housing costs.

“According to an analysis conducted by the Government Accountability Office, for every $100 monthly median rent increase there is a 9 percent increase in homelessness,” the council report said. “Therefore, Florida’s unprecedented increases in rent rates will have a significant impact on the rate of homelessness.”

DeSantis has repeatedly compared Florida’s handling of homeless people to other parts of the country.

During his Jan. 9 State of the State address to open this year’s legislative session, DeSantis said, “Cities throughout the land have decayed: Washington, D.C. has experienced its deadliest year in more than two decades and San Francisco has fallen into a ‘doom loop’ whereby crime, homelessness and drug abuse have eviscerated the quality of life.”

He held a news conference Feb. 5 in Miami Beach to support the homeless restrictions and stood behind a podium that said: “Don’t Allow Florida to become San Francisco.”

House bill sponsor Sam Garrison, a Fleming Island Republican who appeared at Wednesday’s bill-signing event, also described “the great cities that we grew up idolizing” being “brought to their knees,” where families aren’t comfortable to have their kids walk the streets, and business owners close shop “because it’s just not safe.”

The House voted 82-26 to pass the bill March 1, and the Senate followed with a 27-12 vote on March 5.

7 Responses to "DeSantis Signs Homeless Restrictions"

  1. “Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said the measure “targets individuals who are homeless and creates a scenario for local governments, where the only option — if they can’t meet the demands of the Legislature — is to potentially criminalize homelessness.””

    NO. This is a false narrative that must be countered every time.

    The simple fact is that homeless people must make use of proper services if they no longer wish to remain homeless. Allowing people who do NOT wish to make use of those services to instead throw up a tent and defecate upon the public landscape only allows these people to wallow in their often self-created misery. With services offered and refused the next option is not to make the median your home. If any of us were to attempt to have a home built, we would have to comply with thousands upon thousands of rules and regulations and safe building codes. Why then, is it reasonable to allow these people with pets and children to ride out a hurricane in a Wal-Mart pup tent?

    Sometimes, people need a little tough love. Offer the compassionate services. Offer the rehab. Offer the soup kitchen and a cot. Refusal of such does not mean our collective backyard is now yours for the taking.

    If the homeless don’t like it, they can stick our their thumb or hop a train or some charity can charter a bus or two and head to places like San Francisco where they are more than welcome to forgo the Charmin on the sidewalk.

  2. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day… teach him how to fill out a job application, he’ll feed himself.

    … or something like that

  3. They talked about this at the Town Hall last night. To be honest, they don’t really know what to do. It seems to be like it’s an “All Or Nothing” problem to people. Every time I talk about MY solution to people, they like it but then they say, “It will never work because some of them don’t want the help” and they leave it at that. I say “BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE THAT DO”? We should at least help those that DO want the Help.

  4. WHO, is actually being held accountable for each city’s downfalls? Nobody wants to answer this question or others like it.

  5. Put a homeless camp near the new Amazon Center. Folks can walk to work, receive healthcare benefits and earn an income to help them work their way our of homelessness.

  6. My mother in-law won’t use the Leon County Public Library because the stacks are full of homeless people. When she spoke to the Librarian about a man who had obviously soiled himself and was sleeping in the stack she needed access to, the librarian acted like there was something wrong with my mother in law. Our local political miscreants have created this mess and they all need to be canned as soon as possible.

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