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Confronting Homelessness

It has been a momentous few weeks for homeless policy in the United States. As you may know, this has been a keystone policy area for us since founding the Cicero Institute, and we have become the leading organizational voice for reform, as well as a resource for state leaders who want to take bold action. In Florida, we were proud to work with lawmakers on a legislative package that meets the needs of the state and emphasizes the incentives & accountability model that we pioneered at Cicero.

Governor Ron DeSantis signing HB 1365 / SB 1530

Pictured, left to right: Sen. Jonathan Martin, Miami Beach restaurant owner Georgios Vogiatzis, Governor Ron DeSantis, Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner, and Rep. Sam Garrison

This morning in Miami Beach, Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1365 / SB 1530, which will make Florida a leading state in the fight against the failed homelessness policies that have wreaked havoc on so many American cities. HB 1365 will ban street camping and upend how Florida provides treatment and help to the homeless — and holds providers and cities accountable for failure.

  • We know that street camps are dangerous to those who live there, especially women and children. Florida is shutting them down, and when police enforce the public camping prohibition, homeless individuals will have the opportunity to divert into emergency shelters that offer hygiene facilities, water, and security.
  • Importantly, this legislation also changes the way long-term homelessness alleviation initiatives are funded. Now, immediate interventions such as transitional housing and short-term emergency shelter will be prioritized over failed Housing First programs.
  • Florida homeless shelters will prohibit drug use, unlike many states that either abet or even encourage it.
  • Unlike many civil codes intended to address homeless encampments, the new Florida law will allow residents, business owners, and the attorney general to bring civil actions against municipalities that do not enforce the ban — and to collect attorney fees if their case prevails.
  • When we started working on homelessness, many people considered these ideas fringe. Activists have vociferously opposed us at every turn. It takes guts to stand up to the homeless-industrial complex. This is the strongest set of homelessness reforms in the nation, and we were proud to work with Florida leaders to see them adopted. I want to thank Rep. Sam Garrison for introducing this legislation, Sen. Jonathan Martin for carrying it through the Senate, and Gov. DeSantis for bringing it across the finish line.

Last week also brought the hope of change on the West Coast. Unfortunately, activist judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have issued sweeping rulings that prevent cities on the West Coast from enforcing basic laws to regulate dangerous camping and sleeping in public spaces. The Cicero Institute filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Grants Pass v. Johnson et al. alongside allies at the Manhattan Institute and elsewhere — even California Gov. Gavin Newsom is beseeching our nation’s highest court to allow cities to once again clear street camps and get the homeless into emergency shelters. The 9th Circuit’s rulings have paralyzed efforts to maintain order in some of our largest cities. That has to stop.

With your support, the Cicero Institute and our allies are doing difficult work to bring good policy ideas to fruition in statehouses from coast to coast. It has been a long fight on homelessness, and it’s not over by a stretch. But we will build on these successes to do even more in the future.