MidPoint: Homeless Camps and Other Legislative Plans

Maj Vasigh, guest co-host

On MidPoint with Shelley Reback, and today’s co-host Maj Vasigh, we review some of the more significant legislative proposals that are moving forward in the legislature and our listeners chime in.  Of special interest is the governor’s proposal to criminalize sleeping in public spaces and to create homeless camps throughout the state with security, sanitation, and access to behavioral health services. Although the governor has said the legislation is still a “work in progress,” he endorsed its primary goal of moving homeless people off the public streets and out of the parks.

Homeless Camps: Good or Bad?

This proposal has divided lawmakers and homeless advocates alike. To Democratic lawmakers and most homeless advocates, it is a clumsy and meanspirited one-size-fits-all approach that will lead to more arrests of homeless people. It could also run counter to federal best practices encouraging moving the homeless into transitional or permanent housing. The listeners raised some excellent questions and comments. Greg wondered if the homeless camps would be run by private enterprises and whether this was another opportunity for the cronies of Governor DeSantis to profit. Another caller who said he was homeless himself said that the homeless don’t necessarily want to be moved out to areas of the county where there is little to no public transportation available to allow them to get around. The legislation has the backing of a Texas think tank that favors tent cities over permanent housing for the homeless. But, as Maj pointed out, how can tent camps be made safe in hurricane season, and protect residents from the Florida extreme heat? Yet, some, like Jennifer from St. Pete, favor the homeless camps. She urged the advantages of centralizing social services for the homeless population and keeping urban areas like downtown St. Pete free of the homeless.

Is corporate housing decreasing affordable housing and increasing the homeless population?

A related issue is the prevalence of private equity firms buying up swathes of smaller, starter homes in the Tampa Bay region and turning them into rentals with inflated rents and inadequate maintenance. There is no doubt that the homeless population is increasing in our tri-county region of Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties. Some 5,500 local single-family homes are owned and rented out by one private equity firm alone. A caller pointed out that with the enormous increases in property insurance rates, utilities, and mortgage interest rates, more people are losing their homes to foreclosures, allowing private equity companies to scoop up and purchase these homes at depressed prices, and sometimes, relegating their former owners to being homeless.

Stay tuned as MidPoint will continue to bring you the news of current legislative proposals as the session continues.

You can listen to today’s show here, in the WMNF app, or as a WMNF MidPoint podcast from your favorite podcast provider.

Remember our Spring Fund Drive begins on MidPoint on February 21. Please support WMNF and designate your donation to MPW, MidPoint Wednesday, to allow us to continue providing you with the news and public affairs from a local perspective.

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