Bill targeting Floridians experiencing homelessness advances in House

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A bill that restricts people experiencing homelessness from sleeping on public property moved forward in the State House Thursday. The bill faced support and pushback for various reasons.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Representative Sam Garrison. It bans public sleeping and camping. It also allows for counties to turn certain public areas into homeless encampments.

Democratic Representative Dianne Hart voted against the bill. The Tampa representative’s district is the home to 100 tiny cottages to house Tampa’s homeless population.

“I don’t think that forcing municipalities to do what we’re doing in Tampa with our 8 million bucks that we’re putting into an encampment and even having a security does not necessarily make it completely safe, but I just cannot support this piece of legislation.”

Republican Representative Michelle Salzman voted for the bill, saying the streets weren’t safe for her when she was an unhoused child.

“There’s a reason why my parents would go hunting for a home for us to hide in. It wasn’t because we thought the streets were safe, and we just couldn’t be there, it’s because we knew if we were there we would be vulnerable.”

Others, such as Republican Representative Randy Fine, seem to just not want to see the people experiencing homelessness. At 17 years old, Fine was so shaken after seeing a single homeless person sleeping off-campus in New Haven that he wrote off attending Yale entirely.

“That was the end of his interest in potentially attending that university. It was me, it was Yale, and who knows, maybe I would’ve gone there, God forbid, had that not happened.”

The bill passed the House Health & Human Services committee 17 to 3.

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