Florida’s homeless community facing uncertain future after DeSantis’ newly signed bill

Reporter: Annalise Iraola
Published: Updated:

Attempting to end homelessness in Florida, but some people are questioning if the government going about it the right way.

Governor Ron DeSantis just signed a bill into law on Wednesday that would get people off the streets.

The general consensus is mixed, primarily based on who you ask. Groups that work with people experiencing homelessness told WINK News that people on the streets are scared of what the bill may mean for them.

However, others are hopeful that the bill could also have a positive impact to helping those who are unsheltered.

Sleeping on the streets or in public parks won’t be allowed in Florida.

“Today, I’m signing HB 1365. It will help maintain and ensure that Florida streets are clean and that Florida streets are safe for our residents,” said Governor DeSantis.

The Governor signed the bill on Wednesday prohibiting camping on city streets, sidewalks and parks.

WINK News spoke with Bily and Julia through A Voice in the Wilderness, a local nonprofit working with our unhoused communities. They asked WINK News not to show their faces.

“It’s the most devastating thing you can go to. I think it’s close to death… I mean, because you have nowhere to turn. You’re just out in the elements. It’s like you’re forgotten. Thrown away,” said Bill.

WINK News asked some people experiencing homelessness about the bill DeSantis just signed.

“Then the governor needs to open up some shelters,” said Julia, a woman experiencing homelessness.

“First and foremost, that doesn’t resolve homelessness for anyone,” said Michael Overway, the executive director of the Lee County Homeless Coalition.

Overway works with people experiencing homelessness every day, people like Mitch Watson, who was unhoused on and off for ten years.

“I can tell you the psychological impact of being homeless is worse than the physical aspect. You get ignored. Nobody wants to be with you,” said Watson.

“You’re using a bathroom in the woods. I mean, it is humiliating, very, very disturbing behavior. All it takes is the right person, the right time, and the right motivation to get out of that situation,” said Watson.

The new law calls for designated camping locations, which some fear may lead to tent cities.

“Nobody benefits from a tent city. First of all, again, primarily does not end homelessness. And secondarily, it’s extremely difficult to bring mental health and healthcare services into those locations,” said Overway.

WINK News spoke with Kevin Anderson, the Mayor of Fort Myers, about the law.

“People should not look at this as an effort to just try and hide the homeless. What’s really important with this bill is the services that it calls for being provided, especially the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services,” said Mayor Anderson.

The bill calls for those designated camping locations to include mental health services. The state will also provide $10 million for counties to implement the law. However, it’s unclear how that money will distributed.

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