On Monday afternoon, the Osceola County Commission narrowly passed an ordinance that prohibits the homeless from camping in areas that have regular residential and tourism activity and traffic.
The ordinance would prohibit temporary structures like tents, and practices like cooking, in areas “highly trafficked” by residents and tourists. Offenses would be punishable by a fine of up to $500 dollars or up to 60 days in jail.
Supporters of the ordinance included the Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. Representatives from the Osceola County Sheriff’s office said that incarceration would not be the first option and that they would not be “hunting down” members of the homeless community.
“It sounds harsh to say it’s about revenue.” said District 5 Commissioner Fred Hawkins “That is a reality we live in. We need those business to come here. I honestly think some of the organizations we have here in Osceola county are not working regionally to help solve this problem.”
Opponents of the ordinance, including District 2 Commissioner Viviana Janer believed the ordinance could become a “revolving door” that would cost the tax payers without serving as a permanent solution.
“They get booked. We pay all those costs. They spend maybe a night in jail, they get released. A week or two later they do the same thing and it happens all over again.” said Janer.
District 3 Commissioner Brandon Arrington wanted more time for the ordinance to be evaluated and to provide more details on it’s enforcement. Representatives with the Osceola County Sheriff’s office said the ordinance, written as is, would allow their deputies more discretion on possible offenses.
The ordinance ultimately passed 3-2, with Hawkins, District 1 Commissioner Peggy Choudhry, and District 4 Commissioner Cheryl Grieb in support with Arrington and Janer voting in opposition.