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Homeless encampments banned in Florida

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(The Center Square) – Bans on homeless encampments and drug use in homeless shelters are in a new law signed Wednesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Unauthorized Public Camping and Public Sleeping, as House Bill 1365 is entitled, requires the homeless to be housed in temporary shelters monitored by law enforcement agencies. It gives local residents and businesses the ability to bring a lawsuit against a city or county that allows unauthorized camping by people on public property, such as sidewalks and parks.

The new law requires homeless shelters to provide drug and alcohol treatment. The state Department of Children and Families has to provide alternatives when homeless shelters are at capacity.

“Florida will not allow homeless encampments to intrude on its citizens or undermine their quality of life like we see in states like New York and California,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Miami Beach. “The legislation I signed today upholds our commitment to law and order while also ensuring homeless individuals have the resources they need to get back on their feet.”

State Rep. Sam Garrison, R-Fleming Island, sponsored the bill.

“In Florida, we will learn from the mistakes of cities like San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, and more, which are paying the price for their unwillingness to act,” Garrison said alongside the governor. “This bill will not eliminate homelessness. But it is a start.

“And it states clearly that in Florida, our public spaces are worth fighting for. The status quo is not an option. In Florida we choose to act. It is simply the right thing to do.”

The bill passed the House 82-26 on March 1 and the Senate 27-12 on March 5.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said in the explanation of her no vote that the bill “makes it incredibly difficult for local governments to address the homelessness crisis in our state.”

“This is a crisis, but instead of empowering local governments we are making it more difficult for them to respond via preemption,” Eskamani said in her explanation. “I am concerned that the requirements in this bill will push those who are unsheltered deeper into the shadows, versus allow them to access the help and support they need.”