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Will Florida's New Homeless Law Have An Impact?

Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law (HB 1365) that seeks to combat the issue of homelessness. The new law is designed to ban homeless individuals from "camping" or sleeping in public spaces, while providing them shelter and access to certain services they may need. According to Governor DeSantis, "Florida will not allow homeless encampments to intrude on its citizens or undermine their quality of life...." Titled the "Unauthorized Public Camping and Public Sleeping" bill, the new law prohibits Florida's cities and counties from allowing people to "camp" or sleep in public places. If a city or county lacks adequate space in shelters, they are permitted to create homeless camps, which must be monitored by law enforcement agencies, provide clean and operable restrooms, and have running water. Under the law, cities and/or counties must also provide access to substance abuse and mental health resources, and must also prohibit occupants at shelters and homeless camps from using drugs or alcohol. Under the law, "public camping or sleeping" means lodging or residing overnight in a temporary habitation used as a dwelling or living space evidenced by the erection of a tent or other temporary shelter, the presence of bedding or pillows, of the storage of personal belongings, or lodging or residing overnight in an outdoor space without a tent or other temporary shelter. An interesting part of the new law that will go into effect in January 2025, allows residents, local business owners and the state attorney general to file a lawsuit to stop the city or county from allowing the homeless to camp or sleep on public property.

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