© 2024 WFIT
Public Radio for the Space Coast
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A ban on sleeping on public property could bring trouble to some local municipalities

 A man sleeps on a piece of cardboard outside.
MART Production
A man sleeps on a piece of cardboard outside.

The U.S Supreme Court will take up a case on Monday, April 22, that in part, will decide whether cities are allowed to punish people for sleeping outside.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law in March banning unhoused people from sleeping on public property.

Homelessness in Central Florida

Overall, people experiencing homelessness are declining across the state of Florida.

According to the Florida Department of Health, between 2014 and 2023, the population dropped from 41,351 to 30,809.

However, an analysis by Associate Professor of Management at Stetson University found homelessness ticked up in Central Florida slightly between 2022 and 2023.

“I looked at Brevard, Lake, Marion, Osceola, Orange, Polk, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties. Overall for 2023, the number was 4,638, and that's up from 4,168 people from the previous year,” said Croom. “So it looks like we're seeing some concerning upward trends in the short term.”

Conversations around homelessness often involve discussions about mental health and substance abuse.

According to the American Addiction Centers, in many cases, substance abuse is the result of the stress of homelessness, rather than the other way around.

Under the new law, which takes effect Oct. 1, local governments can set up homeless encampments, which are required to have security, sanitation, and mental health services, like substance abuse treatment.

However, Croom said, “substance abuse, while it is a contributing factor in homelessness, it is not the only or even the main contributing factor in many cases. Having substance abuse treatment, while it will help some people, it probably won't address the root cause of homelessness for many other people.”

 Homeless estimates 2023
Florida Department of Health
Florida Department of Health
Homeless estimates 2023

Ban on Public Sleeping

Local municipalities are still figuring out where to place camping areas for the unhoused and how to pay for it.

Randall Croom said some cities may rely on taxpayer dollars, while others partner with organizations already doing similar work.

In addition, there may be unexpected costs to municipalities.

“Business owners whose businesses are perceived to be negatively impacted by the presence of unhoused people might actually sue cities and municipalities for not meeting the obligation that is required, thanks to this new bill.”

While cities look for land to use for the camps, Croom said there likely will be pushback from taxpayers.

“It turns out that even when people think that the camps are a good idea, they often have disagreements about which land to use. And it turns out that a lot of people do not want the encampments, near places where they live and frequent,” said Croom.

Solving the Problem

Moving people to camps does not do much to address the core causes of homelessness, according to Croom.

“Overall, permanent housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness is really the important part of the solution,” he said. “The reality is that people who don't have homes, need homes, and it is very difficult to be a full participant in the economy or in society when you don't have a safe place to lay your head at night.”

Copyright 2024 Central Florida Public Media. To see more, visit Central Florida Public Media.

Talia Blake