Proposed ordinance in Atlantic Seaside would prohibit sleeping, tenting in public locations

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The City of Atlantic Beach may soon “lawfully bar homeless people from sleeping and camping in public spaces.

On Monday evening, the city commission met for a first reading to discuss the proposed regulation, which will include updates to those currently in force.

The language in the proposed laws has been expanded from mere “loitering” to include camping, sleeping and sheltering in public. City leaders say the new language is consistent with current case law.

The city also wanted to place a focus on educating homeless people about the services available to them.

Action News Jax spoke to Mayor Glasser of Atlantic Beach.

“The why behind this is to find a balance in terms of public safety,” Glasser said. “That would be for the safety of people who are in the unfortunate position of being homeless and living on the streets, and the people they encounter in urban areas.”

Glasser said there is a national homelessness crisis.

“We passed our first reading last night, an ordinance that really relates to this idea of ​​urban camping by the homeless where they live on the streets,” Glasser said. “It was important for us to offer them services because we will not arrest anyone just because they are homeless.”

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If the law is passed, a police officer would first have to inform the person of the emergency shelters available, including having an officer transport them to that location.

Failure to comply after a warning may result in an arrest.

Michaele McAvoy is the interim general manager of Mission House in Jacksonville Beach. She says it only creates more barriers.

Mission House is the only service provider for the homeless in the Beaches area.

“People aren’t going to get jobs or homes because they get arrested for sleeping on the beach even though they couldn’t get to shelter,” McAvoy said. “It makes no sense.”

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McAvoy said the proposed regulation does not address housing needs.

“I hope they also look at what the solutions to homelessness are,” McAvoy said. “Not what the solution is, so we don’t see people sleeping on the beach.”

Mission House is a day care facility that provides access to meals, showers, clothing, toiletries and case management. There is also a free clinic for uninsured, low-income adults in Duval County.

“We’re kind of a starting point for people on that safety net,” McAvoy said. “So they know we’re here and that they can come to us and we can help direct them to housing services, employment, education and whatever else they need to address this homelessness.”

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The first reading of the proposal took place on Monday evening.

City leaders said the next vote is likely to take place on November 28 at the commission’s meeting.

“This isn’t about criminalizing the homeless or finding our way out of this problem,” Glasser said. It’s just a matter of bringing all the tools together to try to deal with it in a more holistic way.”

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