Ron DeSantis Signs off on Bill That Prevents Florida Homeless From Sleeping in Public Places

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Mar 31, 2024

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has signed off on a new law that will prevent homeless people in Florida from sleeping in public places. As a result, this means the homeless will no longer be able to sleep on public sidewalks or in parks.

However, the new bill also states that the government will give Florida’s homeless more access to mental health and substance abuse services.

The Creation of Encampments

According to this latest legislation, the Department of Children and Families will oversee the creation of encampments that will be run by local governments throughout Florida.

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A homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk in the evening.

Source: Mihály Köles/Unsplash

These encampments will become the new place where homeless people may be allowed to camp, for up to one year. However, those who use these encampments will not be allowed to use any illegal drugs or alcohol.

What These Encampments Provide

Therefore, instead of sleeping in public parks or on sidewalks, the Florida government is telling its homeless to go to these encampments, instead. Local governments will ensure that security and sanitation are provided.

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Homeless tents seen on a city sidewalk.

Source: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

However, these encampments likely won’t be everywhere throughout Florida. Instead, they will be created if homeless shelters have reached maximum capacity and people have nowhere else to sleep.

Certain Services Must Be Provided

The law does state that certain services must be provided if the creation of these encampments occurs. For example, the local governments that create these encampments are required by law to provide behavioral treatment access, when necessary.

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A person sleeping on a sidewalk in the daytime.

Source: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

Local counties or cities cannot just create these encampments without these provisions.

DeSantis Supports the Law

DeSantis supported this new law, even before he signed it. The Florida governor and many other supporters have claimed that homeless people sleeping on public sidewalks has diminished the quality of life throughout Florida for many.

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Ron DeSantis wearing a suit and speaking into a microphone.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Thus, they believed something had to be done. This law, they hope, will fix the issue. “I think this is absolutely the right balance to strike,” DeSantis said. “We want to make sure we put public safety above all else.” 

Critics Slam the Bill

While many Republicans in Florida have touted this new law as something that could bring about change, many Democrats in the state completely disagree. They’ve publicly slammed the bill.

Shevrin Jones speaking into a microphone.

Source: JakeV305/Wikimedia Commons

“This bill does not and it will not address the more pressing and root cause of homelessness,” Democratic State Senator Shevrin Jones said. “We are literally reshuffling the visibility of unhoused individuals with no exit strategy for people who are experiencing homelessness.”

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Some Republicans Agree

Some conservative lawmakers in Florida have seemingly agreed with Jones’ statement — even if they still support this new law.

An aerial photo of Miami in the daytime with water all around it.

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“This bill will not eliminate homelessness. But it is a start,” Republican State Representative Sam Garrison said. “And it states clearly that in Florida, our public spaces are worth fighting for.”

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Hiding Homeless People

According to many critics of this bill, this law is meant to hide homeless people from public view throughout all of Florida. Instead of helping people who are homeless — or stopping people from becoming homeless — detractors say that the government is simply rounding them up and hiding them.

A street seen in Miami Beach in the daytime, with cars parked alongside it.

Source: Matt Alaniz/Unsplash

These critics believe more legislation should be passed that stops the underlying root cause of homelessness in the state.

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Supporters Disagree With Critics

However, many supporters of this bill completely disagree with these critics’ assessment. They have stated that this law will help homeless people get back on their feet in various ways.

Ron DeSantis standing in front of a black background and by an American flag.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

“This is going to require that the services are there to help people get back on their feet,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s important that we maintain the quality of life for the citizens of Florida.”

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Florida’s Homeless Population

In 2023, Florida’s homeless population was about 30,700. When compared to other homeless populations in U.S. states — especially homeless populations in big cities — this is relatively small.

An aerial photo of many people on a beach in Florida in the daytime.

Source: Lance Asper/Unsplash

However, many analysts have claimed that Florida’s homeless population will likely grow in the near future as more people are moving to the Sunshine State.

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A Rising Homeless Population

Florida’s big cities don’t nearly have as many homeless people as, say, New York City and Los Angeles. However, many in the state have sounded the alarm as they have seen the homeless population grow in the past few years.

Many cars parked on a Florida street by a building with graffiti.

Source: Daniel Lee/Unsplash

A recent analysis of Florida’s homeless population has seen some counties experience a huge spike in just one year. For example, Collier County saw a 50% spike in its homeless population from 2022 to 2023.

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Florida Migration

In recent years, Florida has seen a mass migration movement as many people from around the United States seek a new home there. Many people have fled blue states for the red state, as they believe it will be cheaper to live there.

Cars parked down a Miami, Florida neighborhood street by green trees.

Source: Faith Crabtree/Unsplash

In 2022 alone, more than one million people moved to Florida. As more people move to the Sunshine State, experts are concerned that more people may experience homelessness there.

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