Fort Lauderdale, Don't Criminalize the Homeless!

  • by: Susan V
  • recipient: Fort Lauderdale, Florida City Commission

Fort Lauderdale, Florida may make it a crime for homeless people to keep personal possessions in public places. But there are far more compassionate and effective solutions to the problem the city says it wants to solve.

The new law would not only make it illegal for anyone to store personal belongings on public property, it would give police the right to confiscate items after giving a 24-hour notice to owners, who would have to prove they can’t pay the fee to get their things back.

Even more oppressive, the commission is also considering making it a crime for the homeless to sleep in public or ask for money - even for others to give them food. The reason given for these proposals that criminalize poverty, illness and victimization is “aesthetics.”

Aesthetics, however, is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s nothing tasteful about adding to human suffering. Some cities like Chicago and St. Petersburg seem to have found more beauty in helping, rather than punishing the homeless by providing them with free storage space. Davis, CA is planning on doing the same.

Tell Fort Lauderdale to learn the real meaning of aesthetics and stop criminalizing the homeless!

We, the undersigned, say nothing can be more tasteless than criminalizing homeless people.

Therefore, if Fort Lauderdale’s concern is aesthetics, it should consider a more beautiful and humane way of handling this human tragedy that affects us all.

Among those criticizing Fort Lauderdale’s attempt to demonize their homeless population is Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. She points out that the proposed new law is not only inhumane, but that it’s simply not an effective way to address the problem of people having to leave their possessions in public places. She told ThinkProgress that a better solution would be for business leaders to join advocates and homeless people in developing “alternative short and long term solutions, such as public storage options …and affordable housing.”

With other cities proving this approach is effective and doable, why wouldn’t Fort Lauderdale consider it?

Most disturbing are reports that the city commission has already given “unanimous preliminary approval to the measure, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents who testified.”

Clearly Fort Lauderdale has a lot to learn about the true meaning of aesthetics. We request that the city choose solutions that will help, rather than criminalize, the homeless.

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