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West Palm Beach moves closer to banning camping, sleeping on city streets

'It's a rough day to be a Floridian,' homeless advocate says
Posted at 10:15 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 23:40:03-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — David Rae isn't happy.

"In essence, they're saying, 'Get out of my face. I don't want to deal with this,'" he said.

The homeless advocate from West Palm Beach shared that sentiment Monday to city council members.

West Palm Beach is considering an ordinance banning sleeping and camping in certain designated areas in the city.

Leaders with the city said they have a continuing problem of homeless folks sleeping and camping in public areas, as well as in entrances of businesses.

Assistant City Administrator Armando Fana said the city is looking to curb the problem by passing an ordinance that prohibits camping or sleeping on city streets.

"Every day we know how many beds are at the resource center and we'll be communicating that to the police department, and as they get a call in for a situation where somebody is setting up a camp, they would then approach that individual," he said.

Fana said the officer will assess the person's needs and make a judgment call of either placing that person in a shelter, if available, or enforce the law.

"There are individuals, unfortunately, that for whatever reason will not accept help," he said. "We've documented that and, in those cases, we must enforce the law."

Enforcing the law can mean removing the camp, a ticket to arrest.

Cynthia Nalley is with the West Palm Beach Downtown Neighborhood Association. She said the people she represents support the ordinance.

"They're telling me about incident after incident where they've felt inappropriate things were happening because of a camping situation," she said.

The city said the goal is to get the folks off the streets and provide them with the services they need to get back on their feet if possible.

Rae said it criminalizes those who are homeless.

"It's a rough day to be a Floridian," he said. "It's a rough day to be a resident of West Palm Beach."