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New law makes it illegal for homeless to camp out on streets, sidewalks & parks

ORLANDO, Fla. — Tents and homeless camps are something that can soon lead to fines, arrests and even lawsuits across Florida.

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A new state law makes it illegal for people to camp out on streets, sidewalks and parks, encouraging instead for them to move to state-approved sites with homeless services.

“Just to criminalize homelessness isn’t going to take care of the homeless problem. What it will do is it will use up our law enforcement doing that instead of what their job actually is,” said Matthew’s Hope CEO Scott Billue.

Right now, places like Orlando, Altamonte Springs and DeLand all have city ordinances in place that bar people from sleeping on sidewalks.

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When asked if enforcement is expected to ramp up now, the city of Orlando told Channel 9 in a statement:

“Officers will continue to proactively patrol, and respond to calls from residents and businesses to keep everyone in the city safe.”

Altamonte Springs and DeLand police departments didn’t respond to Channel 9′s requests for comment.

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Another layer of the law provides alternatives for when shelters reach max capacity -- directing DCF to approve temporary campsites.

They would require proper sanitation, access to drug and mental health resources and ban drugs and alcohol.

But the plan for such services is still unclear by leaders.

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The law also didn’t include any funds for such encampments, so local municipalities will be footing the bill.

The Florida Housing Coalition estimates that would cost Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties more than 14 million dollars for just one year.

it would be detrimental if dollars are taken out of existing projects that are effective,” said Homeless Services Network CEO Martha Are.

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The Homeless Services Network, the number of unsheltered people in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties was 426 in 2022 and 587 in 2023.

But the agency believes even that is an undercount since its count only captures the people they can locate and who acknowledge that they are experiencing homelessness when the agency does a count over a three-day period.

The law goes into effect Oct. 1.

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