Homelessness is becoming a major factor across many states and our nation. It is costing millions in clean up, security, and tourism all over the United States. The January 2023 Point-In-Time Count estimates 653,104 people experiencing homelessness across the nation and 30,756 here in our Great State of Florida. The Florida homelessness number has increased 9 percent over the past five years. Approximately 50 percent of Florida’s homeless did not have a primary nighttime residence suitable for human habitation. They were considered unsheltered due to their occupancy on sidewalks, vehicles, abandoned buildings, parks or any other place they could lay their heads. Living an unsheltered life often has significant impacts on personal health, safety, and welfare.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law HB1365 creating Florida Statute 125.0231 which prohibits:

  • “A county or municipality from authorizing or otherwise allowing any person from regularly engaging in public camping or sleeping on any public property, public building, or public right-of-way under the county’s or municipality’s jurisdiction unless the county designates property for such purposes. Under the bill, this prohibition would apply to the following activities:

Lodging or residing overnight in a temporary outdoor habitation used as a dwelling or living space and evidenced by the erection of a tent or other temporary shelter, the presence of bedding or pillows, or the storage of personal belongings.”

  • “Lodging or residing overnight in an outdoor space without a tent or other temporary shelter:

The prohibition does not apply to lodging or residing overnight in a motor vehicle that is registered, insured, and located in a place where it may lawfully be, or to recreational camping on property designated for such purposes.”

  • “The bill authorizes the county, by majority vote of the county’s governing body, to designate property owned by the county or municipality within the boundaries of the county to be used for public camping or sleeping for a continuous period of no longer than one year. If the designated property is within the boundaries of a municipality, the designation is contingent upon concurrence of the municipality, by majority vote of the municipality’s governing body.”
  • “The bill requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to certify a county’s designation and makes the designation effective upon certification. To obtain DCF certification, the county must submit a request to the Secretary of DCF and include certification that, and documentation proving:

There are not sufficient open beds in homeless shelters in the county for the homeless population of the county.

The designated property is not contiguous to property designated for residential use by the county or municipality in the local government comprehensive plan and future land use map.

The designated property would not adversely and materially affect the property value or safety and security of other existing residential or commercial property in the county or municipality.

The county has developed a plan to satisfy the requirements for maintaining the designated property. Upon receipt of a county’s request to certify a designation, DCF must notify the county of the date of receiving the request, and any omission or error, within 10 days after receipt. DCF must certify the designation within 45 days of receipt of a complete submission from the county.

The designation shall be deemed certified on the 45th day if DCF does not take action.”

The bill also established maintenance standards and procedures for the designated property. The county or municipality must ensure the safety and security of not only the property but also the persons residing on the property. They must also maintain minimum sanitation to include providing access to clean and operable restrooms and running water. Must provide coordinating efforts to provide behavioral health services including substance abuse and mental health services. The county or municipality must prohibit and enforce illegal drug and alcohol use.

However, the bill excludes fiscally constrained counties that provide a public property for public camping or sleeping from the required minimum standards and procedures set forth if the county makes a finding that compliance of the requirements should be a financial hardship. Jackson County is classified as a fiscally constrained county.

We do have homeless individuals in our community.  They are found sleeping in shopping center dumpsters and walking the streets with carts. The homelessness here does not compare to New York City, San Francisco, CA, or Las Vegas Nevada and I along with our community members are very thankful. Nevertheless, we do not know what the future will hold, especially with so many people entering our country illegally and the limited resources we have to offer such as housing and food.

If homelessness escalates into a major problem here in our great county and a public site for camping or sleeping becomes necessary, please hold the leadership accountable to maintain the minimum standards as set forth for non-fiscally constrained counties. After all, they are only minimum standards for health, welfare, and safety. We can’t tolerate an unregulated unsecure site in our beautiful community.

In August and November 2024, I hope you will vote for leadership who is informed and up to date on problems and solutions that face our Great State of Florida and our Great United States of America. Our country and our nation are too valuable not to demand accountability of those who govern us.

I will leave you with those thoughts and that concludes this week’s The Straight Truth With Mary Ann Hutton.


1 “Point-in-Time Count” is a count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. This data is collected by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Point-in-Time Count and Housing Inventory Count, https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/hdx/pit-hic/#2024-pit-count and-hic-guidance-and-training (last visited Feb. 7, 2024).