Making life just that much tougher for the homeless, the Tampa City Council passed
a new ordinance – Item #60 – allowing police officers to arrest someone
they see sleeping in public or “storing personal property in public.” In doing so, the City Council has basically criminalized homelessness. The vote was 4-3.
Advocates protested holding signs reading “Sleeping Is Not A Crime” and “Homelessness Is Not
A Choice” outside the Council and testified against
the measure. A number of the protesters were elementary
school children who handed out flyers and asked those passing by, “Where are they supposed to go?”
A 2012 study found that Tampa’s homelessness problem is one of the worst among mid-sized cities. Tampa and it’s surrounding area had the highest number of homeless individuals at 7,419.
In addition, homeless shelters are not free in Tampa, making the proposition of getting off the streets that much more difficult. “Most shelters in the Tampa Bay
area charge $10 to $42 per night for a single person. They aren’t
free,” Tasha Rennels, a Ph.D. student at University of South Florida, told
Bay News 9.
Though the City Council acknowledged that shelters in the
city are full almost every night, they didn’t include any additional
funding for new shelters or housing to go along with Item #60.