Florida Senate Proposes Measures to Tackle Homelessness Crisis

The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to send SB 1530, which addresses the state’s expanding homeless population, to the Fiscal Policy Committee.

The bill defines “public camping” and “public sleeping,” and it prevents counties and municipalities from permitting such activities on public land without permission. Filed in early January, the bill is moving swiftly in comparison to other initiatives that began their trip through the Legislature in late 2023.

As the bill moves through the Senate, members of the Judiciary Committee explained why they firmly support it at a meeting on Monday. According to the Judiciary Committee, there is a pressing need for this because Florida’s homelessness rate is on the rise.

According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, on a single night

The committee was informed that in January 2023, roughly 653,104 people were homeless in the United States. “This represents about 20 of every 10,000 people.”

Supporters of the law are also motivated by a desire to maintain public order and safety. As the Judiciary Committee met, Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at a press conference in Miami Beach in support of the bill, standing behind a “Don’t Allow Florida to Become San Francisco” placard.

“My basic line is that we just want the streets to be safe. We do not want homelessness to be an issue in our daily lives. And that is exactly what it has become — it has taken over day-to-day life in some of these communities across the United States,” DeSantis stated. “And that, first of all, is not good for the public, but it also really isn’t good for the people that are out camping on the streets.”

On a local level, in Leon County, this increase correlates with a growing housing problem, making homelessness more prevalent. This is due in part to a scarcity of affordable housing, as noted by Brenda Williams, executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority.

“Our public housing properties are consistently 98 percent occupied. “We have very, very low turnover in our public housing properties,” Williams explained.

The THA, which is under HUD’s supervision, offers housing through two programs: public housing and housing choice vouchers.

“Vouchers for rental assistance are distributed to municipalities based on their size. So, for our town here in Tallahassee, HUD has supplied roughly 2,700 vouchers depending on the size of the municipality, but if you go somewhere like Tampa, it’s a larger community, so of course they’re going to have more vouchers than we do here in Tallahassee,” Williams explained.

The passage of SB 1530 without first assessing housing availability raises concerns about whether other considerations should be taken into account.

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