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Florida Proposes Permit Requirement for Public Sleeping Amid Surge in Houselessness

Houseless in Florida_TheIntellectualist

In an alarming legislative development, Florida Politics reports on a new bill in Florida that seeks to impose restrictions on public sleeping or camping. The bill, introduced by Sen. Jonathan Martin and Rep. Sam Garrison, aims to regulate the use of public spaces by the unhoused, effective from October 1. This proposed law, SB 1530 in the Senate and HB 1365 in the House, reflects a nuanced approach to addressing chronic houselessness in the state.

The legislation mandates that counties and municipalities must not permit public sleeping or camping on public property without explicit permission through temporary permits. This move is considered by the bill’s proponents as fulfilling an “important state interest” in managing public spaces and addressing houselessness. Sen. Martin emphasizes the need for this regulation as a step towards mitigating the challenges of chronic houselessness, which he describes as one of the nation’s greatest issues.

The bill allows localities to designate certain public properties for sleeping or camping, subject to approval from the Department of Children and Families. These designated areas must provide basic amenities, including clean restrooms, running water, and security, and must enforce bans on drugs and alcohol.

Martin’s vision for these facilities is ambitious, aiming for the “most luxurious” accommodations complete with comprehensive homeless services. However, he acknowledges the financial implications of this unfunded mandate on local governments without providing a cost estimate.

The bill also introduces a provision for private citizens to take legal action if they believe there are violations of the law by counties or municipalities. Additionally, exceptions are made during states of emergency declared by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Democrats and some Republicans, including Sen. Jennifer Bradley, have raised concerns about the bill. Bradley’s apprehensions center around the potential for counties, especially in rural areas, to face lawsuits if they permit sleeping without setting up the required facilities. Martin’s response emphasizes the bill’s intention to encourage the establishment of designated facilities without penalizing the unhoused.

Other concerns raised by Democrats include the safety of individuals in designated sleeping areas and the potential for family separations due to violations of the proposed sleeping ban.

The House version of the bill, led by Rep. Garrison, mirrors these objectives and is seen as part of a broader “Florida model” for addressing homelessness. This legislative effort represents a complex and contentious approach to dealing with the unhoused population in Florida, balancing the need for public space regulation with the challenges of providing adequate resources and support for the homeless.