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Tool to address homelessness implemented in Orlando suburb

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(The Center Square) – A recent experience with a homeless man has prompted an Orlando suburb to consider a new ordinance banning people from camping on public property, including parks and highway rights of way.

“We had a variety of complaints about a specific individual who had set up an encampment on our sidewalks,” Atlamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz told The Center Square. “It included a grill, a heavy workout bag, a bunch of pets in cages.”

The man refused to move.

“We didn’t have a tool to address that,” the city manager said. “Now we do.”

The proposed ordinance, which will be up for approval next month, carries penalties of up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

It would not be enforced if no shelter space is available in the county.

“The requirements of the ordinance are necessary for the preservation of public peace, health, safety and welfare,” the ordinance states.

Atlamonte Springs, which has a population of about 47,000, helps fund a local homeless shelter, Martz said.

“We do our best to do what we can do,” he said. “We try to find refuge for people at shelters. From time to time, those shelters are full. We have built relationships with local hotels and we pay for hotel rooms or the hotels sometimes provide a complementary room to that person.”

The city tried to treat homeless people with dignity and respect, Martz said.

“We understand that people are often homeless because of things that are outside of their control such as mental health and addiction issues,” the city manager said.

The man who prompted the proposed ordinance has since moved on but with passage of the ordinance, the city will be better equipped to handle future scenarios, said Martz.

“We experience seasonal homeless variations and fluctuations,” he said. “But generally, homelessness is low in Seminole County. It is on the rise, but the numbers are not very large.”

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