A new national report found a general trend toward criminalizing the homeless, and criticized the laws of some areas in Florida. The report, published by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, looked at how municipalities treat the homeless.
It found more and more cities have banned activities like sleeping on sidewalks, sitting in public spaces or storing personal possessions outside.
Clearwater and Orlando were criticized for their laws. Miami-Dade County was listed as one example of a place that offers an alternative to criminalizing those on the streets. But Tristia Bauman, the report's primary author, couched any praise.
“Miami-Dade County represents a mixed bag,” she says.
On the one hand, the county has an innovative way to raise funds for homeless services through a tax on food and beverages. On the other hand, it still has laws that limit a person’s freedom to sleep on the street or ask for money in certain areas.
If those activities are illegal, homeless people who can't pay fines or legal fees can clog up the courts. Miami-Dade County has about 850 homeless living on its streets.
“Essentially," Bauman says, "[these are] laws that turn the life-sustaining activities of people who are involuntarily outside into criminal acts."