CLEARWATER, Florida -- Homeless advocacy groups from across Florida spoke out against recently passed ordinances in Clearwater during a conference on affordable housing.
"There's no way to take homelessness and end it in ten years or less by criminalizing the homeless," says Suzanne Edwards with the Florida Coalition for the Homeless.
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In July, the city council passed ordinances that would ban panhandling, soliciting, and sleeping on benches, beaches, and sidewalks around downtown, Clearwater Beach, and East Gateway neighborhoods. The state organizations consider the ordinances passed in Clearwater a growing trend of cities arresting their way out of homelessness.
"[The ordinances are] not reducing the rate of homelessness, and in the end if you don't do the appropriate things to reduce homelessness, it is only going to continue to increase," says Shannon Nazworth with the Florida Supportive Housing Coalition.
Instead, they urge cities to turn to job training and housing, which Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos says the city is already doing.
"The city of Clearwater has continued to make contributions to these programs. It has contributed almost three million dollars," he says.
Over the course of about a month since the ordinances took effect, the city has handed out more than 400 warnings to the homeless, arrested 46 people, and sent 28 more to shelters. Many of them didn't know the housing options available.
"We feel that our outreach addressing the issue and letting people know has helped them. That is what we are trying to do," says Cretekos.
But not everyone sees it that way.
"These solutions aren't going to address the societal issues," Nazworth says. "We need to come up with solutions."