CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Charlotte County talks about a camping ban, but some feel there's an ulterior motive: cutting down the county's homeless population.
It's estimated there are up to 1,500 homeless people in Charlotte County. Tuesday, commissioners considered banning camping on property without the owner's permission.
One by one, people voiced their opposition and support. "There are many that want to get out. Please help them. Don't make them criminals," one man said.
Another man said, "This ordinance is long past due."
Under the proposal, camping or sleeping on property without the owner's consent would be a 2nd degree misdemeanor. The person caught, however, would have the option to go to a shelter rather than jail. "On any given day we have 1 to 2 beds available, so what we are talking about is something that is virtually unenforceable," Charlotte County Homeless Coalition Executive Director Angela Hogan said.
Ultimately, Commissioners rejected the ordinance, 3-to-2. Commissioner Robert Skidmore said enforcing an ordinance like this would cost taxpayers too much."I'm not wasting your tax dollars by putting people in jail at $71 a day, then turning around and paying them $50 a hour to defend them, and $50 an hour to prosecute them," Skidmore said.
Commission Chair Bob Starr, who supported the ordinance said, "This is not a homeless issue, this is a property rights issue. People that own that property have a right to have quiet enjoyment of that property. They have a right to be assured by the Constitution that people aren't going to trash that property."
Angela Hogan has seen a 30% increase in homeless families in just the last year. She now hopes to work with Commissioners to create a 10-year plan to end homelessness once and for all in the county.