Florida City About to Make it Illegal For Homeless People to Have Possessions in Public

Written by Scott Keyes

A backpack. Spare clothes. A notebook. Some keepsake photos. Crackers.

Though they may not have a home in which to secure their stuff, homeless people still have possessions like everyone else.

Yet the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is on the cusp of passing a new regulation that would make it illegal for anyone to store their personal things on public property. Specifically, it would empower police to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property, provided they have given the homeless person 24-hours notice. If the homeless people wish to retrieve their items, they must pay the city “reasonable charges for storage and removal of the items,” though that fee is waived if the person is able to demonstrate he or she cannot afford to pay. The city may dispose of any possessions not retrieved within 30 days. One of the driving factors behind the measure, according to the legislation, is the city’s “interest in aesthetics.”

Last week, the City Commission gave unanimous preliminary approval to the measure, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents who testified.

One woman, Gazol Tajalli, told Commissioners that it is “insanity that we are even here discussing whether an individual can put on the ground the few objects that they own.” Another citizen, Rev. Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, criticized some of the Commissioners for “demoniz[ing]” the homeless.

Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, chastised Ft. Lauderdale’s approach. “Maintaining city streets is a legitimate concern, but simply punishing homeless people for leaving their possessions in public places is not an effective or humane way to address it,” she told ThinkProgress. “Instead, city and business leaders should work with advocates and homeless people to develop alternative short and long term solutions, such as public storage options for homeless people and affordable housing.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, “The commission’s actions were backed by business leaders who said they were looking for some controls on a situation that scares away customers and makes visitors uncomfortable.” The commission is also considering other initiatives targeting the homeless, including stiffer penalties for urinating or defecating in public, prohibitions on panhandling at intersections or sleeping in public, and restrictions on charity groups that hand out food to the homeless.

Ft. Lauderdale is not the only city to embrace new ordinances that criminalize people for being homeless. Scores of cities, including ColumbiaPalo AltoMiamiRaleighTampa, Harrisburg and others have enacted measures that render homeless people simply trying to survive as criminals. Other cities, like Davis, Calif., are taking a different approach: constructing public lockers where homeless people can safely store their possessions.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Shame on Florida. Provide safe places for their possessions instead of penalizing them. AGAIN AND AGAIN!

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

@Jennifer, I agree. The Have’s in this case are those crhistians Have’s who actually adhere more to the tenet’s of Ayn Rand, (pretending they are following the ways of jesus). Seeing the world as it has gone, especially economically in the US, these American’s want to cut our losses, get the poor, and the homeless Have-Nots shouldn’t be seen or heard, and if they are done away with, there will be more food and money for the rest of us who are higher up on the ladder. The attitude is not one of empathy, and love, it’s “you don’t deserve any special treatment, you didn’t work as hard as I did so tough luck for you. Here’s another way for you to pay for your sins.”

This is especially true of the older generation of blue hairs that come down to live here 6 months out of the year, can afford 2 homes and travel.

Read Michelle S for an example of another heartless person. Thanks Michelle for providing us an example of the uninformed Ayn Rand student among us.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

"Scores of cities, including Columbia, Palo Alto, Miami, Raleigh, Tampa, Harrisburg and others have enacted measures that render homeless people simply trying to survive as criminals" --Why has this become such a popular stance in our cities. More and more people are losing jobs, losing homes, have little to show for their life and the cities want to take those meager possessions away. It is just not right. The country is losing any and all compassion it once had towards all living beings - animal and human. It is a horrible direction the country is headed.

Lori U.
Lori Udenberg3 years ago

I hope that anyone that even thinks about voting for this law spends time as a homeless person so they know how it feels to have NOTHING.People don't choose to be homeless and this has to be one of the most disgusting things I have heard of.

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton3 years ago

I have been to Florida, it is a WHITE TRASH STATE.

Michelle Spradley

I seriously doubt that a backpack with a personal items in it is the target. I believe the target is the grocery store carts overflowing with whatever the homeless can pick up and jam into them. I live in South Florida (Palm Beach County) and can hardly go a mile without seeing at least one of these eyesores, which frequently are literally filled with useless garbage and probably smell as bad as they look. There's one I see regularly in a very particular two mile area near my home that sits in the same place for days before being moved on to the next sidewalk campsite and eventually being rotated back to Point A.

The homeless people who simply carry a very few things in a duffel bag, backpack or suitcase are not troublesome. Fortunately, there are also many churches around here where they can replace worn out bags and clothing as well as get a decent meal.

Kim Janik
Kim Janik3 years ago

Ridiculous...why don't you go one step further and make homelessness illegal Ft. Lauderdale.!! You're off my vacation list...and I'll be sure to pass it along!

James Fisher

A totally ridiculous idea -where do they suggest that these people keep their belongings -maybe they could leave them locked up in their houses -but they are homeless. Maybe they should keep them in the lockers they rent, but wait a minute - they have no money and as they have no permanent address it is doubtful whether they get welfare. If they get no welfare they go down in the spiral -lower and lower and the people in work's contempt for these people grows. It is all very well saying shame on the authorities but make sure they know you know3. I'm speaking from England as some of you may know and I can see the same thing happening countrywide over here. America is not a good example to follow.

Alexandra G.
Alexandra G3 years ago

very sad

Freya H.
Freya H3 years ago

Only somebody who has the heart of a leech and the soul of a flea could even contemplate such a cruel and evil regulation. Only someone who makes Lord Voldemort look like Mother Teresa would support this vile bill. If Fort Lauderdale passes this horrid legislation, may some serious bad karma befall that city. I hope that the voters will get rid of the villains who want to kick people when they are down. Making people who probably have no money pay to get their stuff back? That is beyond heartless! No civilized nation would permit even the smallest hamlet to pass such a despicable statute.

The homeless are the most vulnerable and helpless, and they need society's help to get back on their feet - not persecution. Our nation is losing its heart and soul when such legislation can receive even the tiniest bit of serious consideration. I fear that our society is becoming too sick to survive.