In 2006, the city of Orlando passed an ordinance that restricted feeding homeless people around the elegant Lake Eola Park near downtown. An injunction issued by a federal judge in Orlando stopped the ban.
That was until Tuesday, when an additional ruling by a U.S. District Court of Appeals in Atlanta voted 10-0 in favor of allowing the restriction, which Orlando officials said they would begin enforcing without delay.
“The 11th Circuit gave as ringing an endorsement of the city as I’ve seen. This was a strong and unequivocal ruling that the city did the right thing. We’re happy for cities around the state and nation that will now have very clear guidance,” Orlando City Attorney Mayanne Downs said to the Orlando Sentinel.
Claims that the move will protect businesses and the affluent neighborhoods around Lake Eola are based on the unfair suggestion that homeless people are an immediate threat, if not just an eyesore, to those who think they’re too good to have the population within their vicinity.
Just the fact that the city created the ban, which limits feedings in the park by only allowing a group intending to feed the homeless two permits a year to do so, implies that no current laws were being broken, especially since the feedings continued for five years without interruption while the case wound through the courts.
Lake Eola is a centrally located public park, which anyone could visit for a picnic or stroll around the beautiful waterfront.
The surrounding neighborhoods’ sidewalks used by the homeless to reach the park are also open to lawful use by the public.
If one were to step onto private property, regardless of their socio-economic status, they would be in violation of existing property laws and would rightly be subject to prosecution.
However, city leaders and local property owners aren’t pushing to make the park and surrounding public access ways private property. They’re singling out the specific use of the public areas by one particular group.
For many, there’s an undoubtedly strong negative connotation associated with being homeless. They assume that those without a job or home must be dangerous criminals who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, which means it’s certain they will bring crime and despair wherever they go.
That’s just not true.
As illustrated by “Spent,” an online game produced by Urban Ministries of Durham that’s aimed at creating empathy for those affected by homelessness, people living paycheck to paycheck can find themselves homeless just by losing their job and not having any close friends or relatives to turn to.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer pointed out that there are homeless shelters across the city that offer three meals a day to anyone, and that the city’s job is “to make sure that no one park or neighborhood is overburdened,” according to the Sentinel.
Apparently, the mayor and other proponents of the ban have no problem with the presence of homelessness in other parts of the city, just not around affluent Lake Eola residents or their beautiful park.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.