Homelessness–What to Do About It

by Joe Steckler

President, Helping Seniors of Brevard

What to do about homelessness? An excellent question, one that Governor DeSantis is pushing our local authorities to address. The Florida legislature has approved a measure barring homeless people from sleeping or camping on public property. The bill urges local governments to create homeless camps, with security, sanitation, and access to mental health services. Cities and counties could be sued if they do not comply with the new restrictions. WOW—now all we need is something similar for affordable housing.

I have lived in Brevard for 36 years and the homeless problem has been with us the whole time. In 1997, my staff at the Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation found a flooded-out family living in a tent in Wickham Park. We got them a place to stay until we could locate housing for them. Fast forward to today, when a member of my poker group was taking me to a medical appointment. He pointed out a man on a bicycle with everything he owned on him and the bicycle. Daily Bread is now gone; who serves the homeless that we have in all Brevard cities?

For years we have assembled volunteers to count the number of homeless people in Brevard County over a two-day period. What have we done with the statistics? Has any action been taken to resolve the problem? The Governor’s bill is a step in the right direction and may prevent Brevard from becoming a homeless mecca like San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and Denver.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Brevard County Housing and Human Services developed a plan to resolve the problem? There are federal grants available to help fund a place in Brevard where homeless people could be housed and trained to do a job. If the Governor signs this bill, we will all be in for a shock. County Commissioners will be forced to meet the law’s requirements. Why wait for a law to be passed when something could be done, something that should have been on the drawing board a long time ago.

The requirements posed in the law passed in the House and Senate are something the Governor wants. I highly doubt Florida cities will want to comply, but if it is the law then action must be taken. I want the bill to be passed even though my taxes will go up. At least they will be used for tangible outcomes.

It is time that the staff of the County government, who all work for us, do something to develop a plan and funding to build and manage a homeless facility. We can turn our homeless into productive citizens. That 25 million dollars of COVID money could have been used to start the ball rolling. A one penny tax could be aligned with federal and/or state money to do the same.

Contact Helping Seniors at 321-473-7770, at www.HelpingSeniorsofBrevard.org, or at P.O. Box 372936, Satellite Beach, FL 32937.