DeSantis signs homeless camping and sleeping prohibition into law

by | Mar 20, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed legislation regulating the permissibility of public camping and sleeping. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed into law legislation that targets the regulation of public camping and sleeping, a measure he prioritized during the latest Legislative Session.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Sam Garrison, prohibits unsanctioned public camping and sleeping, mandating that local governments designate specific areas for such activities. Under the legislation, designated areas for public camping must include facilities ensuring safety, sanitation, and access to mental health and substance abuse services, with bans on drugs and alcohol.

“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 during a press conference commemorating the signing. “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.”

Proponents of the bill, including Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo, argued to House lawmakers that it represents a step in the right direction by offering support services such as mental health assistance and potential job placement to the homeless.

“We have a homeless crisis in our state,” he said before a floor vote earlier this month. “Rep. Garrison’s bill is a step in the right direction. It’s in the direction that’s going to provide mental health services, maybe even career guidance services. And along with that, it’s going to improve the environments of our cities. It’s going to clean up our streets.”

Opponents, however, like Democrat Reps. LaVon Bracy Davis and Anna Eskamani, lambasted the bill on accusations that it criminalizes poverty and imposes unfunded mandates on local governments.

“I think it’s really important that we not push aside people that are insecure in their housing that need help that may be navigating things like addiction, PTSD, or other disabilities,” said Eskamani.  “Instead of pushing folks away, we need to ensure that we’re providing them with a safe and secure long term plan.”

Bracy Davis, in a fiery debate session, contended that the legislation only serves to penalize homelessness by treating poverty and destitution as crimes, rather than extending help and support, thereby empowering large government to encroach on local initiatives aimed at solving homelessness.

“This bill empowers big city government big government to encroach upon the domain of small government further stifling local initiative aimed at addressing the root cause of homelessness,” she said.

In January, DeSantis hosted a press conference to pledge support for the bill.

“We’re not going to let any city turn into a San Francisco,” DeSantis said, harkening talking points from his failed presidential campaign. “We need to prohibit camping on all city streets, sidewalks, and parks. We just can’t live like that.”

DeSantis also referenced potential state funding for sheltering and substance abuse problems among the homeless population, but clarified that he does not want to facilitate programs that would “incentivize” the establishment of homeless camps in spaces that could “interfere” with business.


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