Laws Aimed At Homeless Pass Unanimously
City leaders unanimously approved three laws targeting the homeless - making it illegal to sit on the sidewalk, camp overnight and increasing the penalty for soliciting to up to 60 days in jail at the City Council meeting Thursday.
City leaders unanimously approved three laws targeting the homeless that will make it illegal to sit on the sidewalk, camp overnight and increasing the penalty for soliciting to up to 60 days in jail at the City Council meeting Thursday.
Officials will vote once again on the rules at their Aug. 2 meeting before they go into effect.
Ordinance (8347-12) makes it unlawful to sit or lie down in the right-of-way in the East Gateway District, downtown and within the Beach Walk area from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. This would include places like public docks, piers, boardwalks and sidewalks.
Violators would not be fined on the first offense and will be given the chance to relocate to a place where sitting or lying down is allowed. Sitting or lying down is allowed in these instances:
- In a park or public beach
- Because of a medical emergency
- Sitting on a chair or bench as it is intended
- Use of a wheelchair, a baby carriage, or like conveyance
- As part of activities like a parade, festival, performance, rally, demonstration or meeting
- Sitting at a sidewalk café
- Sitting or lying down when it is an integral part of a protest accompanied by incidents of speech such as signs or literature explaining the protest
Another ordinance (8313-12) leaders approved makes it unlawful for someone to camp outside, unless approved by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Officers will be required under the ordinance to give a person with no permanent or temporary residence two chances to find a shelter or some other place to relocate before citing them with a violation.
If public or private shelter space is not available in Pinellas County, officers will not be able to cite the violator. Officers are also required to ensure any of that person’s private property is stored at the station for up to 60 days.
City leaders also approved moving the soliciting ordinance to Chapter 21 of the city’s code, which makes it so violators could face up to 60 days in jail, depending on the discretion of the arresting officer.
Already individuals were not allowed to solicit from drivers in travel lanes on public streets and while in public parking lots and garages. If caught violators are given a fine, now they could get jail time.
People can still apply for a permit to legally solicit up to 10 times (days) a year.