Updated Mar 20, 2024 - News

DeSantis signs bill banning unhoused people from sleeping in public spaces

Gov. Ron DeSantis holding a signed law at a press conference in Miami Beach.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the new homelessness law at a news conference yesterday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A new homelessness law in Florida seeks to move unhoused individuals off public property and into shelters or government encampments.

Why it matters: Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed HB 1365 into law Wednesday, says the law will improve public safety, but it doesn't include housing solutions experts say are critical to addressing homelessness.

What's inside: The law prohibits cities and counties from allowing people to sleep in public places and allows local governments to create homeless camps if shelters reach capacity.

  • The government-run camps would be required to include mental health services, addiction treatment, running water and restrooms, and need to be free of alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • HB 1365 also allows residents, business owners or the attorney general to sue a local government for not following the law.
  • The state is providing $10 million for counties to implement the law, the Miami Herald reported.

What they're saying: "You should not be accosted by a homeless [person] like we see," DeSantis said at a bill signing in South Beach. "You should be able to walk down the street and live your life."

  • "We're going to have clean sidewalks, we're going to have clean parks, we're going to have safe streets."

Between the lines: The law does not explicitly direct police to clear unhoused people off the street, but Florida International University associate sociology professor Matthew Marr tells Axios that criminalizing homelessness could be the end result.

  • "It's up to the municipality at the local level to navigate that, but it seems to me that it's an effort to clear out encampments from public space and put people into regulated spaces — out of sight, generally," Marr says.
  • Marr, who researches homelessness in Miami and beyond, says housing — not shelters — is the only thing that can end homelessness.
  • "They see this as an eyesore, but it's really a natural outcome of our society and our economy."

The other side: Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, tells Axios the "legislation doesn't contemplate arrests" and that he doesn't believe any homeless encampment would be built in Miami-Dade.

  • Book, whose organization oversees the county's homeless services, agrees that housing is the best way to end homelessness.
  • But he's optimistic the new law – along with mental health reforms approved by the Legislature – will "lead to broader changes that will make Florida homeless free."

Flashback: In 2022, the city of Miami proposed creating a homeless encampment on Virginia Key but the plan was scrapped amid public backlash.

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