Florida city restricts homeless camping
Lakeland, Fla., has tightened an existing ordinance in an effort to stem unauthorized camping by homeless people in the city limits. The move caused some homeless residents to fear that they would be rounded up by police, but officials told local News Channel 8 that was not their intent.
The city amended the ordinance — which was originally passed in the 1960s — at the behest of three homeless services providers, says Lakeland Director of Communications Kevin Cook. “They had issues with people camping on the property who weren’t adhering to the rules, [such as no drinking of alcohol,] and our camping ordinance didn’t really have enough teeth to have them move along,” Cook says.
The city amended the old ordinance to better define private property and to give police the authority to remove homeless people who camped on the service providers’ property. Mayor Gow Fields said that the city would not “round up every person that we believe to be homeless and take them off to jail.” “That is not our intent,” Fields said. “That is not the intent of this ordinance.”
Members of the homeless community told the council that the city needed to give them better alternatives for shelter and to bring more jobs to the city, according to the Channel 8 report. Download the amended ordinance, and read the Channel 8 article.