Orange County faces financial strain as new homelessness law looms

Orange County leaders are grappling with the financial implications of House Bill 1365, set to take effect in October. 

The new law mandates that counties and cities prevent people from camping and sleeping in public spaces and instead provide designated areas for the homeless. In a recent meeting, Orange County officials expressed their concerns about the budgetary impact. 

"It's going to be a big challenge," said Mayor Jerry Demings.

Currently, the county faces a shortage of over 900 shelter beds, as reported by homeless advocates to the commissioners on Tuesday. 


"Really nervous," commented Commissioner Nicole Wilson about the impending challenges.

Local officials are working to estimate the cost to taxpayers for creating additional shelter space. They reviewed Tampa's expenses, noting that setting up a homeless encampment for 100 people costs over $6 million, with an annual operating cost of $2 million.

Mayor Demings acknowledged the county's financial constraints, stating, "Any of the solutions are going to be costly. You heard me asking about costs. We're going to increase the budget, and we're planning to do that."

Last year, Orange County allocated over $45 million for homeless services, including operating existing shelters, with plans for over $46 million in the next budget. However, following the presentation on the new law, Demings conceded that these funds would likely be insufficient.