Florida city bans sleeping on public property and using shopping carts for storage following rise in homeless crime

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DeLand, Florida, passed a series of measures designed to curb homelessness, including making it illegal to camp on public property.

With approximately 400 homeless people in DeLand, a city with a population of around 37,000, officials stated that after eight years of failing to reduce the number of homeless, it was time for stricter measures.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, DeLand has been experiencing an increased number of homeless residents intimidating and harassing business owners and their employees, as well as more people sleeping in public areas. There has also been an increase in the homeless population urinating and defecating on sidewalks near businesses.

City leaders signed off on new measures that are expected to allow more police intervention to curb the issues. New laws will prohibit camping on public property for more than 24 hours and ban lying on public sidewalks, streets, alleys, and benches. In addition, residents will not be allowed to leave belongings on public property for more than 24 hours.

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This measure was reported by Click Orlando as preventing the storage of personal items in shopping carts. According to Law Server, Florida state law says that any person “in possession of any shopping cart, laundry cart, dairy case, egg basket, poultry box, or bakery container” that belongs to a registered company is presumed to be in possession of stolen goods.

“This is a step, not a solution,” said City Commissioner Kevin Reid.

“It’s an important first step,” added Mayor Chris Cloudman.

At the same time, Daytona Beach is opening its doors to homeless people from DeLand.

The First Step Shelter houses 100 beds and has a fenced-off “safe zone” outdoors where homeless people can stay overnight. Those in the zone can leave whenever they want. However, those who wish to sleep inside the shelter must commit to a work program that pushes them toward obtaining housing.

Over 600 people have successfully transitioned to housing through the program.

DeLand will pay just under $70,000 per year to help with the operation of the First Step Shelter.

City Attorney Darren Elkind refuted the idea that homeless people in the area were henceforth going to be arrested due to their circumstances.

“This is not, ‘If you’re homeless in DeLand, we’re [going to] arrest you and take you to jail.’ That’s not what’s going on,” the city official said. “If there’s a place for me to go, and you’ll take me there, and it doesn’t cost me anything, but I just don’t [want to] go, then we can arrest those folks.”

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