A proposed Florida bill could potentially restrict people without homes from sleeping in public buildings and on public property without a permit.
On any given day or night, there are some downtown sidewalks filled with people without homes. Now state lawmakers have introduced a bill that could change those occurrences.
Some unhoused people are upset because they said when the shelters are full, public spaces are the next option.
“It’s crazy on the street because you have no place to go. They should have a place for us to go: shelters or an apartment,” one man said. “Okay, you don’t want to see us on the street. After a while, where are we going to go?”
Chanel Mann is a volunteer for Never Forget Powerhouse Ministry. Two days a week, she and other volunteers provide warm meals to people living on the streets. She shared her thoughts on the bill.
“Where would they go? Who can they go to? Who’s going to help them? If they don’t get any help, they have no choice but to sleep on the street,” Mann said.
Under the proposal, if a county wants to designate an area for the homeless, it must have public restrooms, 24-hour security, and access to behavioral health.
Drugs and alcohol would not be prohibited, and the designated area cannot affect the value and security of residential and commercial properties.
“If they want us off the street, they need to open housing, not shelters,” Ricky Sanchez Jr. said.
Mayor Donna Deegan introduced a $14 million task force bill that included $2.6 million to address homelessness, which includes emergency rental and eviction protection.
Mann said the bill does not address the city’s unhoused problem.
Freddy Ghoback is the owner of Casa Dora Italian Cuisine and Pizzeria. He said the sight of people without homes sleeping next to the front door and around the outdoor tables scares customers away.
“It does not look good when people camp in front of the place with all their belongings. And it deters the customers from coming to the door,” Ghoback said.
Ghoback said he has tried to resolve the issue, but the problem has become what he called a “nuisance.”
“You can beg for money, get cash, and leave, but the biggest problem is when they camp in front of the doors,” Ghoback said.
Ghoback said every time someone sets up camp in front of the restaurant, they leave trash that he has to clean up.
Sanchez said more needs to be done to help people with felonies on their record because it’s hard to get a job so they can get off the streets.