A city in Florida already notorious for its treatment of the homeless is going a step further. Last week, the Ft. Lauderdale City Commission unanimously approved two separate measures that restrict basic survival necessities for many homeless people, including sleeping in public areas and asking others for money.
The first, Ordinance No. C-14-41, makes it illegal for anyone to sleep in public in the downtown area. According to commissioners, it was necessary because of Ft. Lauderdale’s interest in the “preservation of property values and the prevention of the deterioration in its downtown.”
(In other words, officials are more concerned about property value than the well-being of homeless people.)
The second measure, Ordinance No. C-14-38, cracks down on people who ask drivers for money at an intersection. Under the new law, panhandling is now illegal at “busy intersections,” which includes dozens of stops in the city. The measure won’t just apply to homeless people, but anyone trying to raise money for charity, including children. Commissioners justified the move by pointing to the fact that there were 154 pedestrians involved in traffic accidents last year. But notably absent from that statistic is how many of those accidents involved panhandlers.
According to the Sun Sentinel, violators of the new laws could face both a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.
Both measures passed by 5-0 votes, despite overwhelming testimony in opposition to the proposals. One local pastor, Craig Watts, cautioned commissioners against “laws that criminalize misfortune.” He called it “ethically dubious at best,” noting that the religious community opposed these measures.
This isn’t the first time that commissioners in Ft. Lauderdale have worked to criminalize homelessness in the city, nor is it even the first time this year. In April, the city passed a measure making it illegal for homeless people to have possessions in public and empowered police officers to confiscate them, provided they gave the individual 24 hours notice.
Instead of calling it The Sunshine State, can we start a petition to change it to "The Shitty State Unless You’re Rich and White"