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Atlantic Seaside bans sleeping or loitering in public areas, however makes arrests final choice – The Florida Occasions-Union

David Kuhn hangs out with his dog, Casper, at Atlantic and Kernan boulevards on Nov. 16. Kuhn said he has been without a permanent residence for the past 14 years. Monday the Atlantic Beach City Commission approved an ordinance that would prohibit sleeping or loitering on city streets, parks and other public places.

The Atlantic Seaside Metropolis Fee permitted a controversial new ordinance that will prohibit sleeping or tenting on metropolis streets, parks and different public locations, however supply homeless individuals shelter and different sources earlier than making arrests.

Metropolis officers are also pondering suggestions from outgoing Mayor Ellen Glasser to be extra energetic in space efforts to assist the homeless.

Over the previous few weeks, group questions on how the ordinance would impression homeless individuals spurred constructive discussions, Glasser mentioned.

“The chance that got here to us … was actually an exquisite one,” she mentioned. “I used to be stunned by the response. Individuals wish to discuss this.”

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In its Monday night time assembly, the fee unanimously adopted an ordinance that states: “No particular person shall loiter, lounge or sleep in or upon any avenue, park or public place or in any public constructing or impede the entry to any public constructing … or impede passage by way of or upon any public avenue, park or public place.”

Atlantic Beach Police Chief Victor Gualillo talks to the City Commission about a proposed ordinance banning sleeping in public places.

The legislation will require cops to first present violators with a record of shelters and different group sources and, if vital, present transportation. If no shelter house is out there or violators do not wish to use them, they would solely be arrested in the event that they refuse to maneuver on, are in some way endangering public well being and security or have dedicated different crimes.

The fee additionally permitted Glasser’s suggestion to assist fund a neighborhood chilly climate shelter program run by St. Paul’s By-the-Sea Episcopal Church and Mission House, a nearby day center that gives meals, clothes, showers and different companies for homeless individuals. The church, which supplies shelter, and the day heart, which supplies meals, will every obtain $1,500.

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“It is a begin,” she mentioned.

Different subjects of debate

Glasser’s different suggestions, which weren’t voted on Monday night time, included:

  • Strengthening the “intergovernmental effort” to assist native homeless individuals entry county sources.
  • Discussing the feasibility of a “co-responder program” — embedding social staff or licensed psychological well being staff inside police departments — probably along with an present Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers program.
  • Working with the Sulzbacher heart in Jacksonville, which supplies complete companies to the homeless, so as to add the Seashores to its cellular well being service rotation.
  • Working with the Psychological Well being Useful resource Heart to assist native homeless individuals get disaster companies. 

These recommendations can reply “the place we will go from right here to make issues higher,” Glasser mentioned. “We do not have a sizeable homeless inhabitants however … this is a chance to have interaction and do higher outreach.”


Michaele McAvoy, interim government director of Mission Home, mentioned she was comfortable to listen to concerning the cold-weather shelter program receiving metropolis funding. However she was much more enthusiastic about Glasser’s assembly final week with her and representatives of Sulzbacher and Altering Homelessness, the realm company for homeless prevention.

The group talked about “the intersection between social companies and legislation enforcement” and the way Atlantic Seaside may also help bridge the hole, in addition to the co-responder idea, amongst different issues, she mentioned.

Constitutional issues

The brand new ordinance stemmed from citizen complaints a few homeless particular person on the Seashores City Heart, in addition to the ramifications of an eleventh District Court docket of Appeals ruling. The ruling discovered that ordinances making homelessness unlawful are unconstitutional but additionally that “sleeping outside just isn’t a elementary proper,” in response to a metropolis workers report.

The present loitering ordinance was revised to accommodate each legalities.

In response to a workers report, “Individuals utilizing these areas as dwelling areas can increase concern about public security associated to such points as unsanitary circumstances and unfettered entry for all residents who have to share these public areas.

The ordinance “is in step with present case legislation and represents a best-practices strategy to guard all residents in our metropolis whereas recognizing the necessity to respect the constitutional proper of individuals to journey freely,” in response to the report.

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Atlantic Seaside Police Chief Victor Gualillo mentioned officers will warn violators first, then present them with an inventory of obtainable shelters and companies and supply transportation. Solely when such help fails to supply outcomes would an arrest happen.

In such instances, an arrest “just isn’t the primary choice the town … or the Police Division desires to make use of,” he mentioned.

Over the previous three years, there have been no arrests below the present loitering legislation, Gualillo mentioned. Officers not too long ago spent an hour with a homeless man who was new to the realm, encouraging him to go to a shelter. After they “constructed a rapport” with him, he agreed to go to Sulzbacher, the chief mentioned.

Gregory Hanna helps by working for the Homeless Voice handing out the publication on Atlantic Boulevard on Nov. 16. Hanna is without a permanent residence and is working with a case worker to get back on his feet. Atlantic Beach on Monday passed an ordinance to prohibit sleeping or loitering on city streets, parks and other public places.

“Atlantic Seaside is a … microcosm of what is going on on throughout the nation. Sadly, police departments are on the vanguard,” he mentioned. “Officers on the market are attempting to do the correct factor.”

Having a co-responder program, with social staff or licensed psychological well being staff, Gualillo mentioned, can be a “nice concept, yet another device to assist individuals.”

Pending points

Jacksonville lawyer A. Wellington Barlow recommended the town on the “mercy” included within the ordinance. However he mentioned some grey areas might result in litigation, corresponding to a reference to cops making “cheap makes an attempt” to seek out shelter house.

Jacksonville has about 3,400 homeless individuals, however only one,100 or so emergency shelter beds. The persevering with inexpensive housing disaster within the space makes discovering everlasting housing troublesome.

Former Atlantic Seaside Mayor Invoice Guilliford, who later served on the Jacksonville Metropolis Council, famous that extra shelter house shall be accessible as soon as Sulzbacher’s new males’s campus is accomplished.

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Additionally, he famous that there isn’t a in a single day homeless shelter within the Seashores communities and efforts to position one would probably produce many “not in my yard” complaints from residents. However Guilliford, who’s on the Sulzbacher board, mentioned it’s nonetheless an concept price learning.

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