Florida City Criminalises Public Sleeping To Crack Down On Homeless

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Tue Sep 23 00:08:59 BST 2014

Makes It Illegal To Sleep In Public In Effort To Crack Down On The Homeless



"City Makes It Illegal To Sleep In Public In 
Effort To Crack Down On The Homeless"

A homeless man sits on a sidewalk in Miami, FL

A city in Florida already notorious for its 
treatment of the homeless is going a step 
further. Last week, the Ft. Lauderdale City 
Commission unanimously approved two separate 
measures that restrict basic survival necessities 
for many homeless people, including sleeping in 
public areas and asking others for money.

The first, 
No. C-14-41, makes it illegal for anyone to sleep 
in public in the downtown area. According to 
commissioners, it was necessary because of Ft. 
Lauderdale’s interest in the “preservation of 
property values and the prevention of the deterioration in its downtown.”

The second measure, 
No. C-14-38, cracks down on people who ask 
drivers for money at an intersection. Under the 
new law, panhandling is now illegal at “busy 
intersections,” which includes dozens of stops in 
the city. The measure won’t just apply to 
homeless people, but anyone trying to raise money 
for charity, including children. Commissioners 
justified the move by pointing to the fact that 
there were 154 pedestrians involved in traffic 
accidents last year. But notably absent from that 
statistic is how many of those accidents involved panhandlers.

According to the 
Sentinel, violators of the new laws could face 
both a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

Both measures passed by 5-0 votes, despite 
overwhelming testimony in opposition to the 
proposals. One local pastor, Craig Watts, 
cautioned commissioners against “laws that 
criminalize misfortune.” He called it “ethically 
dubious at best,” noting that the religious community opposed these measures.

Another individual who testified, Casey Cooper, 
told commissioners about his experiences being 
homeless over the past two-and-a-half years, 
noting that he “didn’t grow up in a wealthy 
middle class family like you did,” but instead 
grew up in foster care. He was never adopted, so 
when he turned 18, with no family, he found 
himself on the streets. “So if people like you 
who are banning me every night, I have to worry 
about where I’m going to sleep at, where’s the 
next meal at, how am I going to get the next 
piece of clothing, worry if the cops are going to 
mess with me, and you’re going to try to pass a 
law that’s [...] going to ban homelessness?” 
Cooper asked commissioners. “Sleep is a human right.”

Cooper isn’t the only homeless person to call Ft. 
Lauderdale home. According to the 
Point-in-Time Count, there are 2,810 homeless 
individuals and families who live in Broward County.

Maria Foscarinis, who heads the National Law 
Center on Homelessness & Poverty, which monitors 
homeless criminalization laws, called Ft. 
Lauderdale’s move “unfortunate.” She told 
ThinkProgress that instead of criminalizing 
homeless individuals, “City revitalization should 
address the needs of all city residents ­ 
including homeless people ­ and should ensure the 
development of affordable housing, with any 
needed services, to provide a real and lasting solution to homelessness.”

This isn’t the first time that commissioners in 
Ft. Lauderdale have worked to criminalize 
homelessness in the city, nor is it even the 
first time this year. In April, the city passed a 
making it illegal for homeless people to have 
possessions in public and empowered police 
officers to confiscate them, provided they gave the individual 24 hours notice.

Criminalizing homelessness is an 
trend in cities across the country. Many 
municipalities, ranging from 
Alto to 
and beyond, have enacted measures in the past few 
years that turn homeless people into criminals simply for trying to survive.
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