Poor counties could be exempt from some homeless camp requirements
Image via The Associated Press.

homeless phoenix ap
Proposal to ban public sleeping moves forward with new language.

New legislation billed as bringing a “carrot and stick” approach to managing the unhoused population now has a carve-out exempting some parts of the state from parts of the requirement.

An amendment to HB 1365 approved by the House Judiciary Committee would exempt municipalities in “fiscally constrained” counties from the provision to “establish and maintain minimum standards and procedures” for state-mandated homeless camps “if the governing board of the county makes a finding that compliance with such requirements would result in a financial hardship.”

In practical terms, this would shield smaller and poorer counties from the unfunded mandate to impose 24-hour security and other amenities, while imposing the disproportionate financial burden on urban counties. But sleeping rough would not be legal in those fiscally constrained counties regardless, sponsoring Republican Rep. Sam Garrison said.

Garrison, in explaining the ban on public sleeping, said his bill was intended to deal with “one of the biggest challenges” policy makers face, trying to “thread the needle” between competing interests without working to “criminalize” homelessness.

Asked if his bill paved the way for tent cities, the Clay County Republican didn’t close the door, saying localities could “create brick and mortar facilities” if they wanted, but they could “designate other areas of public property for that function,” including fields.

Asked why he didn’t create a pilot program for the unproven proposal, Garrison said he “believe(s) so much” in the proposal that it should be a “Florida model” for “preservation of public space” with “basic humanity and decency” toward the unhoused.

Locations could not be used for more than 365 consecutive days under this bill, with the goal of keeping one spot from being a homeless camp in “perpetuity.”

Democrats pushed back to no avail ahead of the 16-6 vote to move the measure forward.

Rep. Dianne Hart said the bill was intended to “target people who already have nothing,” telling them “they must be out of sight because that’s where we want them,” and noting 30,000 Floridians are unhoused according to estimates.

Unfunded mandates irked others.

“I don’t see any money in this bill,” exclaimed Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson, suggesting affordable housing may be a way to deal with homelessness.

Republicans were more supportive, with Rep. Thad Altman saying “our streets are bleeding with the blood of homelessness,” framing the legislation as a “very important first step” to dealing with the unhoused population.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has already embraced the concept of the homeless camps. He has said he is “confident there will be a product” to “prohibit camping on all city streets and parks,” adding that “most” local governments will back legislation like the House bill and its Senate companion (SB 1630) that would ban people from sleeping or camping in streets or public areas in what bill language calls an “important public interest.”

The camps, which are intended to be under the supervision and determination of the Department of Children and Families, would be mandated to include clean restrooms, running water, security on premises, and bans on drugs and alcohol.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


5 comments

  • Prehistoric Florida, We Sleep In Woods

    February 7, 2024 at 1:04 pm

    Awesome! 200 homeless living 600 yards from your elementary schools!

  • Disgusting Fla

    February 7, 2024 at 2:09 pm

    Florida land if the billionaire heterosexual MAGA mothers against books, public schools but give 18 yo assault rifles, don’t take government money for healthcare or to feed low income kids, gerrymandering, is soon to be the oasis for only WHITE MAGA that should secede from the union and not look to the feds for social security, Medicare or FEMA help.

  • MH/Duuuval

    February 8, 2024 at 9:57 am

    They called such encampments Hoovervilles in the 1930s and, today, there are refugee camps in most developed countries. (Some 2 million Palestinians live in UN areas of Jordan. And likely more to come.)

    God forbid I mention the UN, but they do operate numerous large refugee camps — or settlements — throughout the world.

    Perhaps this is a model to consider since homelessness appears to be increasing as the US becomes increasingly stratified in economic terms.

    Not that MAGAmites are concerned with anything but appearances — like the Soviet Russian model villages of the 1930s, which were supposed to be a contrast to Hoovervilles and set up to impress foreign observers.

    • Nope

      February 8, 2024 at 5:20 pm

      I vote NE Florida’s first camps to be set up in Nocatee, Ponte Vedra Beach, and Amelia Island. For that matter, it only makes sense to put encampments on or near prime beach and riverfront real estate. That way they could use FEMA disaster money after storms to bolster tent cities. And, you know, appearances.

      • MH/Duuuval

        February 8, 2024 at 10:30 pm

        I like your concept, but the hurricane must come first to scour the barrier islands — then the tents can go up, alongside the blue tarps. And everyone can eat communally from food trucks.

Comments are closed.


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