Some Of Florida’s Homeless Population Is Reportedly Attempting To “Live” In Some Of Its Airports

Florida is one of the states with the largest homeless populations in the nation. According to the Florida Housing Coalition, in January of 2023, a point-of-time count for homelessness in Florida found around 30,000 “individuals experiencing literal homelessness” at that time. Of those, around 43% were unsheltered. Some of those unsheltered are reportedly seeking refuge in non-traditional places in Florida – such as its airports.

The Airports Where Some Homeless Are Seeking Refuge

As far back as 2019, Florida media was reporting about the homeless seeking safety and amenities in the state’s airports. According to WESH, some of Orlando’s homeless were trying to blend in at the airport and make it “home”.

At that time, Senior Director of Airport Operations Tom Draper told the station: “The community does have a homeless population and I would be remiss to say that they don’t visit the airport because we know that they do. If they do not have business here, they need to move on.” To address the issue, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority reportedly provides free rides from the terminal.

WSVN reported in November of 2023 that people who are “…actually homeless… are living inside Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport”. One homeless woman, Rebecca, told the station that she “lives” in the airport because she considers it safer than the streets and shelters. She is reportedly seeking jobs.

Miami International Airport also has people experiencing homelessness who have been trying to stay at the airport, which is prohibited by county code. Miami-Dade Aviation Department Communications Director Greg Chin told Axios that the Airport works with the county’s Homeless Trust to offer housing and assistance.

Chin said: “…about 30% of the individuals who are offered this assistance accept it. Those who do not accept assistance are escorted off airport property, and those who return…are issued trespass warnings, citations or placed under arrest…”.

The Challenges and Solutions for the Homeless Problem

The phenomenon of homeless people seeking shelter at airports has been happening at airports around the world — such as Chicago, Cleveland, Palm Springs and Buenos Aires — prompting police to enforce trespassing laws. However, some advocates argue that criminalizing homelessness amounts to human rights abuses. The UN Human Rights Committee recently called for the U.S. to abolish such policies and step up efforts to find solutions for the homeless, including redirecting funding from criminal justice responses toward housing and shelter.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are 15 homeless per 10,000 people in Florida. The state has the third-largest homeless population in the USA. The causes of homelessness vary, but some of the common factors are lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, and natural disasters. The solutions to homelessness also require a comprehensive and coordinated approach, involving various stakeholders such as government agencies, non-profit organizations, private sector, faith-based groups, and the public.

Some of the strategies that have been proven effective in reducing homelessness are: providing permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, prevention and diversion, emergency shelter, outreach and engagement, coordinated entry, and data and performance measurement. These strategies aim to address the immediate needs of the homeless, as well as the underlying causes and barriers to housing stability.

Conclusion

Homelessness is a complex and persistent problem that affects many people in Florida and across the nation. Some of the homeless are reportedly attempting to “live” in some of the state’s airports, where they face security and legal challenges. The airports are working with the county’s Homeless Trust to offer assistance, but not all of them accept it. The homeless problem requires a holistic and humane solution, that involves providing housing and services, as well as preventing and ending homelessness.

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