Florida To Public Camping: Take A Hike!

Campers block a public sidewalk in Portland, Oregon. Photo by John McDonald.

Pitch your tent somewhere else, pal.

That’s the message coming out of Tallahassee as Florida lawmakers, taking note of deteriorating conditions in other parts of the country, have drawn a hard line on public camping. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law that cracks down on those who make their homes in public spaces. Designed to mitigate problems that have overwhelmed many west coast cities, HB 1365 also provides drug abuse and mental health counseling services, while giving local governments the tools necessary to prevent sidewalks and parks from being taken over by the unhoused and those who choose to live outside.

“The lawlessness seen in ‘progressive’ cities — sprawling encampments, open-air drug markets and homeless people endangering themselves and others is totally preventable,” said DeSantis during a bill signing ceremony March 20 in Miami Beach. “We won’t stand for it in Florida and our action today is one of many steps we’re taking to keep our cities clean and safe for everyone.”

Critics of the law say it criminalizes homelessness and saddles cash strapped agencies with an unfunded mandate. During debate in the Florida legislature, Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami) expressed concern over the bill’s approach. 

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

The law takes effect Oct. 1 with oversight provided by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if local ordinances that prohibit sleeping and camping in public parks and on sidewalks are constitutional when it hears Grants Pass v. Johnson. Oral arguments are set to begin April 22.


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