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West Palm Beach restricting homeless activity downtown

'This ordinance is not a criminalization of homelessness,' says Mayor Keith James
Posted at 10:19 PM, Dec 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 10:35:21-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — West Palm Beach city commissioners just passed a controversial amendment of an ordinance minus one portion that caused controversy.

"This ordinance is not a criminalization of homelessness," Mayor Keith James.

Commissioners set out to pass an amendment that regulates certain behaviors such as panhandling, public urination, and sleeping/camping in public areas in downtown, and in the Northwood neighborhood.

The possible decision drew a huge crowd of people against the amendment. Many say the ordinance criminalizes homelessness.

"You're just relocating them. They're going to go somewhere else," Sandy Machovich said.

And David Ray let the commissioners know his feelings on the issue.

"I'm going to keep talking to you, I'm going to keep talking to you, I love you," he said.

It also attracted a small number of people in support.

"It's not that people are not being compassionate I think that's what people are trying to make it seem and it's not right," business owner Will Davis said.

But the debate over camping/sleeping in public areas began to weigh on commissioners Cory Neering and Joseph Peduzzi. Both questioned whether it was the smart thing to include in the ordinance to Mayor James' frustration.

"I think you should specify what it is you are trying to work on," James said.

In the end, the commissioners came to a compromise. The ordinance passed but without the camping/sleeping portion.

Along with the ordinance is a $500 penalty or 60 days in jail if someone is caught by police.