• Homeless group files lawsuit against City of Ocala, alleging unconstitutional arrests, fines

    By: Myrt Price

    Updated:

    OCALA, Fla. - A group of homeless people have filed a lawsuit against the City of Ocala, claiming the city is violating the rights of the homeless with some of its laws for open lodging.

    Some attorneys representing the plaintiffs claim some of the laws are the worst they've ever seen, with some homeless people being banished from public places.

    "It feels hateful," said a homeless man who only went by his first name, Jeremiah. "I'm not out to get anybody or ruin anybody's day. I'm just trying to survive."

    Jeremiah told Channel 9 that he's been homeless for about six months and it's tough finding a place to sleep with there being limited space in shelters.

    "Generally, we get told we have to leave city limits to sleep," Jeremiah said. "I've been told that a couple of times."

    Attorneys suing the city on the behalf of three people claim the city's laws are unconstitutional and that Ocala officials are trying to force homeless people to leave town.

    The lawsuit claims homeless people who are sleeping, resting or present in public places have been the target of arrests.

    The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have spent 210 days in jail and have assessed over $9,000 in fines.

    Attorney said they are not asking for tent cities, instead asking for a solution that doesn't involve arrests.

    City leaders said the laws were put into place after business owners said the homeless were becoming a nuisance and scaring off customers last year with aggressive panhandling. 

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