Senate Passes Florida Bill Banning Homeless People from Sleeping in Public Spaces

By: Georgia | Last updated: Mar 08, 2024

The Florida House has passed a bill aimed at preventing homeless individuals from sleeping in public spaces. The decision, made by an 82-26 vote, reflects a significant legislative step towards addressing homelessness. 

The bill, supported by Governor Ron DeSantis, seeks to offer a structured approach to the state’s homelessness, emphasizing the importance of maintaining clean and orderly public spaces.

Governor DeSantis Supports the Homeless Bill

Governor DeSantis has expressed his support for the bill, stating it is a measure to “combat homelessness and keep Florida’s streets clean.”

A split image displaying two contrasting scenes. On the left, Ron DeSantis in a suit, presumably a political figure, and on the right, a nighttime scene of a single orange tent pitched on a sidewalk next to a bicycle

Source: Wikimedia Commons

DeSantis highlighted the need to avoid scenarios seen in other major cities like San Francisco, emphasizing the importance of proactive measures to address homelessness effectively within Florida.

HB 1365: A Closer Look at the Legislation

Fox News reports that the bill, HB 1365, was passed with substantial support in the House and is now being considered by the Florida Senate. 

An image showing an impromptu sleeping area on a city sidewalk against a beige brick wall. The setup includes several worn mattresses topped with an assortment of blankets, some pillows, and scattered personal belongings

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It reflects a broader initiative to address the visible aspects of homelessness, with a particular focus on preventing the use of public spaces for sleeping or camping by homeless individuals.

Residents and Business Owners Gain New Rights

Under the new bill, residents and business owners will have the opportunity to challenge local government decisions regarding homelessness. 

A photograph captures a sidewalk cluttered with various belongings and a green Quechua tent set up against a building

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This provision aims to empower local stakeholders to have a say in how homelessness is managed in their communities, providing a direct avenue for expressing concerns and seeking resolutions.

A Growing Concern in Florida

A 2023 report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development indicates a concerning trend: homelessness has reached a new national record, with Florida playing a significant part in this increase. 

An individual, appearing to be homeless and wearing a beanie and jacket, is seated on a city sidewalk, engrossed in reading or viewing something blue in their hands. To the left, a shopping cart is overflowing with an assortment of personal belongings, including blankets and a bag

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The spike in unsheltered individuals within the state has contributed to these rising numbers. Notably, more than half of all Americans facing homelessness, whether sheltered or unsheltered, are in just four states, with Florida alone accounting for over 5% of the national total. 

Representative Garrison's Advocacy

Representative Sam Garrison, a key proponent of the bill, stated on the House floor that the legislation “isn’t going to eliminate homelessness,” but is a step towards addressing the issue more effectively. 

Three individuals, two men and one woman, are seated behind a long table in a meeting room with a sign reading 'Clay County Florida' on the front. In the center is a man identified by a placard as 'Rep. Sam Garrison'. They are flanked by the American and Florida state flags

Source: SamGarrison155/X

Garrison emphasized that the bill is intended to offer constructive solutions, saying “this is not a bill designed to put people out of sight, out of mind. It’s quite the opposite.”


Preventing a Crisis Like San Francisco's

The aim is to prevent a situation similar to San Francisco’s homelessness crisis, where Garrison noted “ the problem exceeds the resources to address it.”

A makeshift encampment situated under an overpass with multiple tents and tarps of various colors strewn with personal items. Debris is scattered around the area, and several people appear to be occupying the space

Source: Wikimedia Commons

By establishing designated areas for sleeping and camping, Florida hopes to manage its homeless population more effectively, ensuring public spaces remain accessible and clean for all residents.


Establishing Designated Areas for Homeless

The legislation proposes the creation of designated areas for homeless individuals to sleep or camp, equipped with necessary amenities. 

A large red tent is pitched on a city sidewalk beside a stone wall with overgrown greenery

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These areas are intended to provide a safer and more structured environment for homeless individuals, Newsweek reports.


Addressing Health and Safety

The bill emphasizes the importance of providing a safe and healthy environment for homeless individuals, with designated areas including access to restrooms, running water, and security. 

A close-up view of a public notice sign attached to a wire fence, with text announcing the enforcement of a no-camping regulation in a park area. In the background, personal belongings and makeshift shelters are visible, indicating the presence of an encampment in the area

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This approach aims to address the immediate needs of the homeless while also considering the broader public health implications.


Democratic Opposition

Democratic representatives have voiced concerns about the bill’s approach to homelessness. 

The image shows workers in white protective suits and masks clearing a homeless encampment. They are in the process of handling tents and various belongings. In the foreground, there are blue and green tents

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis criticized the bill for potentially criminalizing homelessness and not addressing the root causes. 


Addressing Concerns About Enforcement

During the legislative discussions, further concerns were raised about the enforcement of the new rules against public sleeping. Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani questioned the potential for arrest of homeless individuals who might not comply with the designated sleeping area requirements. 

A group of workers dressed in white hazard suits with masks and gloves are actively moving a blue and white tent. One worker carries a rake, suggesting cleanup efforts. The scene is outdoors in a grassy area with trees, and several other tents and a large cleanup truck are visible in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In response, Representative Sam Garrison clarified the bill’s stance on enforcement. He stated, “Our bill does not describe criminal penalties. We leave it to the local jurisdictions to make a determination about what’s the best way to address the problem.” 


Future Prospects and Legislative Journey

As the bill progresses to the Senate, its potential impact on Florida’s approach to homelessness remains a topic of significant interest. 

A wide-angle view of the United States Senate Chamber, showcasing rows of empty polished wooden desks arranged on a patterned blue carpet with white stars. The room is adorned with richly decorated marble walls, large draped curtains, and ornate golden and blue details along the upper walls. The central aisle leads to a raised dais where the presiding officer's desk is located

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Should it gain approval in the upper chamber, the legislation is set to become effective starting October 1st. 


San Diego's Homeless Encampments

While Florida’s recent homeless ban has sparked widespread debate, let’s shift our focus to San Francisco, where unique measures are being implemented to address similar challenges in urban homelessness.

The image captures two individuals sitting on a lush green lawn in an urban park setting. One is facing away from the camera, wearing a dark hoodie and resting on a brown blanket, while the other, also in a dark hoodie, is seated looking towards a light wooden building

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The city’s recent measures have led to the removal of many tents from downtown areas, showing a marked change in the landscape. This development reflects the city’s intensified efforts to address homelessness, with visible outcomes in public spaces.


Statewide Collaboration on Homelessness Legislation

Two California state senators, one from each major political party, are proposing a statewide law similar to San Diego’s recent ordinance. 

A photograph of a city sidewalk strewn with various discarded items. A black leather couch with visible wear and a blue overstuffed chair are pushed against a wall, accompanied by an overturned blue recycling bin with contents spilled onto the concrete

Source: Jiroe (Matia Rengel)/Unsplash

Their initiative signifies a rare bipartisan effort to address the issue of homelessness across the state. By suggesting a statewide approach, they aim to extend the reach of policies proven effective in specific locales.


The Unseen Side of Homelessness Crackdowns

While the streets may appear cleaner, advocates point out that the crackdown has displaced many homeless individuals to less visible areas.

An image taken at night of a city sidewalk with a person sleeping underneath an orange tarp and personal belongings scattered around

Source: Frederick Lee/Unsplash

This shift raises concerns about whether the root causes of homelessness are being addressed or merely pushed out of sight. Critics argue that without adequate shelter availability, these efforts might not be as effective as hoped.


Addressing Voter Concerns: Homelessness and Housing Affordability

Recent polls indicate that homelessness and affordable housing are major concerns for California voters.

A collection of circular 'I VOTED' stickers spread out on a white surface. Each sticker features an American flag motif with red stripes and white stars on a blue background


Despite the state’s significant financial investment in related programs, the persistent high numbers of homeless individuals highlight the ongoing challenge.


Supreme Court to Review Anti-Camping Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to review a case that could have nationwide implications for homelessness policies, Reuters reports.

A photo of the United States Supreme Court building captured at dusk. The grand facade is lit by warm lights, highlighting the classical architecture

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The case will examine the constitutionality of anti-camping laws, particularly in contexts where insufficient alternative sheltering options are available. The outcome could significantly influence how cities across the country address homelessness.


Daily Realities for San Diego's Homeless Population

In downtown San Diego, the homeless population remains visible, with many individuals pushing their belongings in shopping carts or sitting on duffle bags as they wait for essential city services. These services range from shelter referrals to food, clothing, and crucial mental health or substance abuse treatments.

An image of a person lying on a sidewalk against a building wall at twilight. They are partially covered with a mustard-colored blanket, with a pillow under their head and a black bag beside them

Source: Mihály Köles/Unsplash

A census highlighted that, out of approximately 6,500 homeless people in the city, only about half have been able to find some form of shelter, leaving around 3,285 individuals without a place to call home.


Debate Over Enforcement and Housing Solutions

Critics of San Diego’s approach to homelessness, like advocate Michael McConnell, argue that enforcement alone is not a solution. 

Photo showing a homeless encampment in an urban park with tents, assorted belongings, and people milling about. A police officer is seen interacting with a person in a white protective suit. The foreground features a pile of items including blankets, a yoga mat, and bags. Portable toilets and more tents are visible in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

They emphasize the need for more affordable housing to address the issue effectively. This perspective highlights the broader debate on how best to balance immediate enforcement measures with long-term housing strategies.


Details of San Diego's Unsafe Camping Ordinance

San Diego’s Unsafe Camping Ordinance allows for stricter enforcement of camping regulations in specific city areas. 

This image captures an aerial view of a dense residential neighborhood stretching towards the edge of a calm blue ocean

Source: Clayton Cardinalli/Unsplash

Passed by a narrow majority, the ordinance reflects a contentious yet decisive action by the city council to address homelessness through regulatory means, demonstrating a commitment to managing public spaces while grappling with complex social issues.


Legal and Public Reactions to Camping Bans

San Diego’s enforcement of its new law has prompted legal scrutiny and public debate. Other cities facing similar legal challenges look to this situation as a potential precedent. 

An image depicting a homeless encampment situated on a street in front of the University Congregational United Church of Christ. Multiple tents, mostly covered with blue tarps, are crowded together behind a colorful fence

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The legal outcomes and public reactions in San Diego could influence broader approaches to homelessness and public space regulations.


One Man's Experience with Enforcement

Brother Shine, a homeless resident of San Diego, shares his personal experience with the city’s enforcement efforts. He said “That’s as wrong as two left shoes. It doesn’t make a lick of sense to Brother Shine.”

An image showing an improvised sleeping area on a sidewalk with a mattress and a blue sleeping bag. A piece of cardboard is propped up against the wall as a makeshift headboard

Source: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

His encounters with law enforcement officers highlight the individual-level impact of broader policies, offering a human perspective on the city’s regulatory measures and their consequences for those directly affected.


Tracking the Impact: Homelessness in Downtown San Diego

Data from a business alliance in San Diego show fluctuations in the number of homeless individuals downtown, suggesting some impact of the new ordinance. 

A photograph of a homeless encampment at the corner of Pearl St and 11th Ave. Tents of various sizes and colors, some covered with tarps, are set up on the pavement. An American flag is flying on a pole above the campsite

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, the numbers also reflect ongoing challenges, as the homeless population remains significant, indicating that enforcement measures alone may not suffice to address the issue comprehensively.


San Diego's Comprehensive Approach

San Diego’s mayor, Todd Gloria,  emphasizes a multifaceted strategy to tackle homelessness, combining enforcement with expanded service provision and shelter availability. 

An image of Todd Gloria actively speaking at a public meeting, captured mid-sentence. He is wearing a beige blazer over a green shirt. A microphone and nameplate reading 'Mayor' are directly in front of him on the table

Source: ToddGloria/X

This approach aims to balance immediate needs with longer-term goals, focusing on building more shelters and streamlining processes to create permanent housing solutions, reflecting a city-wide commitment to addressing homelessness holistically.