Homeless Bills Targeting Pro Sports Teams Make Legislative Rounds

MIAMI (CBS4) – A pair of bills making their way through the Florida legislature could have local homeless sleeping on the 50-yard-line of Sun Life Stadium or up in the rafter of the AmericanAirlines Arena.

Florida State Senator Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) and State Rep. Frank Artilles (R-Miami) have introduced bills to demand Florida’s professional sports franchises to either start housing homeless folks in their stadiums and arenas, or give back the hundreds of millions of dollars they have received from the state.

“I want to make good citizens out of them,” Bennett told CBS4 News Tuesday. “Here we are cutting money for Medicaid, we’re cutting money for education, we’re cutting money for homeless programs and shelters and all these other things and we’re saying, you know what maybe we should ask for that money back since they didn’t do it, they didn’t comply, they chose to ignore the law.”

The law Bennett refers to is a provision of a 1988 statute requiring teams that take state money to convert to homeless shelters when the teams aren’t playing. In the 23 years the law has been in existence; it has never been enforced.

Bennett and Artilles point out that every sports team in South Florida has taken millions of dollars of state taxpayer’s money. Across the state the total figure is more than $270 million.

“I think they should follow the rule and the rule was you took the money you were supposed to use it for a program for homeless people and you didn’t do it and therefore we want our money back,” Bennett said.

But homeless advocates argue warehousing homeless individuals in large facilities is not the answer and would actually be counter-productive.

In 1988, when the stadium homeless law was first enacted, there were more than 8,000 people living on the streets of Miami. Today, there are fewer than 800 – with many of those refusing help.

“Miami-Dade has a more comprehensive, broader program than most anyplace else in America,” said Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.

The Trust was created in 1993 and spends more than $45 million a year on helping the homeless.

“The 27 person homeless trust board would never look at a solution as to housing people in our stadiums and our arenas as an acceptable method to end homelessness,” he added. “That’s just not what we do.”

It should be noted that Ron Book is also the lobbyist for the Miami Dolphins. Whether this bill will make it very far remains to be seen.

It seems unlikely that legislators will actually be able to claw back the millions they’ve given the various franchises. At the very least though, it offers legislators a chance to beat up on the pro sports teams and their billionaire owners; a sport that is always fun for politicians.

More from Jim DeFede
  • ballsohardclub

    This is insanity. Most of these homeless are due to poor decisions & illness.

    • dave mowers

      This is crazy, social welfare for billionaire sports team owners and ZERO help for the poor. No more social safety nets for rich baseball players and super rich team owners.

      • Ten

        By your reasoning, dave, the State should enforce morality anywhere it chooses. Goot idea, “conservative” Republicans!

      • http://www.ksbulldogs.com Patriot42

        I think that all the money should be divided up and then everything would be peachy and the world would be happily there after.

    • jnsesq

      Yeah, but this way we won’t have to look at ’em so much and the megamoney-making enterprises that get free or partially free rides from the taxpayer wil have to — what do liberals say? — give back to the community.

      • julia bolen

        don’ do it,save it for our tax paying who will need a place to live soon

    • Rob

      This was tried at the New Orleans Superdome, it did not turn out very well.

      • FCJYP

        That was after a big ass hurricane Rob. No power, no food, no water. Not a good example…

    • RonnieReagan

      You had me until you ignorantly brought up illness. That said, these teams took the money knowing what the laws were at the time. In spite of their negligence, this action should be anything but a surprise to them.

  • Mikey

    Stadiums aren’t really built to house people. Instead of parking some homeless people in the stadium, have the team pony up some money for proper housing.

    Funny how the article didn’t mention the millions of dollars each year in taxes and additional consumer spending that these teams bring in for the state.

    • RonnieReagan

      When the stadiums were built they were required to have built it in a way that would have conformed to the law (housing homeless). In fact, this is WHY they received the money. It was their choice to take the money. Nobody forced them. They knew the rules, not live up to them. Isn’t that what all you neocons are griping about half the time…or does that only apply when it suits your agenda. Ron Paul 2012.

  • Empire47

    This is so simple. If the owners have broken the law, charge them, then open a civil suite to get the money back. If the law doesn’t make sense then change it. That’s what these stupid negligent politicians are supposed to be doing rather than playing one upmanship and kissing butts for campaign donations.

  • Derek

    The teams haven’t been making their graft payments.

  • Myron W. Clements

    How well did housing people in the superdome after Katrina work?

    • wonder??

      The murder rate per weekend did not increase post Katrina; It was merely concentrated in one place. That place was . . . wait for it . . . (paste your guess here). No, seriously though, check it out. Pre-storm there were approx 10 murders per week (give or take). There were 10 murders at the (once again, insert your guess here).

  • livemichaeln

    Now if we can get Home Depot to provide breakfast & coffee for the illegals hanging out in front of their stores waiting to be picked up for jobs…

  • Jack Kinch(1uncle)

    Many should not have been bred on welfare in the first place or allowed into the country. Half do not pay taxes but live off others taxes. Way too many. Start at the source, the dimorats.

  • Realist

    $45 million for 800 homeless? 27 person board? Homelessness is big business in major cities. How much of that money actually goes to the homeless and how much goes for government or nonprofit cushy jobs?

  • MiamiDiver

    Only 800 homeless in Miami? I am not buying that load.

    There are at least 800 hanging out under the bridges on A1A.

  • Don T.

    That’s about the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard since the concept of Obamacare. If it wasn’t part of the original deal, this is just a form of extortion by government. And that is NOT Freedom!

    Elected officials are supposed to work FOR the people … “the people” means everyone, not for limited special interest … they aren’t there to Direct Citizens LIVES!

    • Forest

      Did you even read the article Don? It WAS in the original deal.

  • Jim

    The more foundational point is : The state should not be subsidizing sports in the first place. The question of more help for the homeless is just an end run around.

    • Casper

      Nonsense, Jim. A professional sports team is a successful business that attracts money to a locality. That is more than can be said for any Democrat/government agenda item. Start depriving the government rat hole instead.

  • hebramleigh

    Sure, stockpile the homeless in sporting arenas. Just be ready to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, each year to repair the damage they do out of spite. Ever seen a public housing unit when it first opens? They are usually nice places. Visit them within a year, and you’ll find them virtually destroyed.

    • anonymous

      Very good point, I used to work in public housing in NY and it’s true. The projects are nice when opened, most of them (not all) are in poor shape after a short period.

    • Kevin Pearson

      And just try to get them out when it is time to prepare for the games……

      • John

        Pretty cool post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wetnad to saythat I have really enjoyed reading your posts. In any caseI’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!

  • crypticguise

    This is an incredibly stupid decision by politicians. Homeless people do not belong in sports complexes. Most are drug addicts and alcoholics.

    I’d like to know the details of the contract when the sports franchises were given STATE funds. Aren’t they paying taxes?

    • Forest

      Read the article and you would know the detail from “the contract when the sports franchises were given STATE funds”!!

    • bevis

      Most are drug addicts and alcoholics.

      correct they belong in the front offices with all the other drug addicts and alcoholics…………………..

  • chloe

    this had to have been when a democrat was gov of florida. (notice democrat ends in “rat”.

  • DP

    agreed, there is an existing law, abide by it! but do it in another way, instead of have to configure and reconfigure the statiums, use the money to build a couple of shelters

    • Kevin Pearson

      What is the exact wording of the bill? To be used to house the homeless when teams are not playing or when the stadium is not in use.?

      The problem is that bill is from the 1980s, before luxury skyboxes were standard. Nowadays, stadium skyboxes are leased out with 10-30 year leases, and the lease holders essentially have rights to the skyboxes year round. Otherwise the Marlins would have gotten revenue from the luxury suites at the stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie, because all revenue went to Huizenga, even when the leaseholders used the boxes during baseball season.
      Why would someone pay what they are paying for a skybox only to come in for a private function in the off season and have to see homeless sleeping on the field? This law did not take this into account because it is outdated from days when skyboxes were not so prevalent.

  • John Kvastner

    “I think they should follow the rule and the rule was you took the money you were supposed to use it for a program for homeless people and you didn’t do it and therefore we want our money back,” Bennett said.

    OK … if the funds were *supposed* to be used for homeless programs, then why weren’t they? Go after the POLITICIANS who signed off on this, what should then amount to a misappropriation of funds. Otherwise, I say let these self-appointed judges of social conscious and good intentions pass this bill. THEN … we can laugh when the Dolphins, Bucs, Jags, Lightning, Panthers, et al. move out of state. Seeing the Los Angeles Jaguars, Oklahoma Buccaneers, Cleveland Lightning, Cincinnati Magic, Toronto Dolphins, or (you get the idea) would be. Downright. HILARIOUS!!!

  • Ed

    “Today, there are fewer than 800 [homelsss] – with many of those refusing help…..The [Miami-Dade Hojmeless] Trust was created in 1993 and spends more than $45 million a year on helping the homeless.”.
    This is $56,250 per homeless person & more as many refuse help. This board should be fired. If the stadiums don’t want to house the homeless then they should be billed for what it is costing and has cost the taxpayer. My bet is when its sports’ problem the cost will drop dramatically & the homeless will have homes other than the stadiums.

    • Kevin Pearson

      The story said those are the numbers actually on the street, There is the Miami rescue Mission, Camilius House etc,..
      The Stadiums cannot house the homeless because that law was passed before there were luxury boxes in the stadiums and they are leased in mulityear leases, and year round, not just during the season.

  • Joe


  • The_Basseteer

    Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana Super Dome and the major clean up required. Now, imagine that on a weekly basis in Florida’s stadiums.

  • Greg Miller

    I have always been against subsidizing sports teams. Cities and States pay millions of taxpayer dollars to build stadiums or sports teams move out to greener pastures.Those greener pastures are the Cities/States that have decided that that is where their millions of tax dollars are best spent. I am not suggesting that the homeless be housed in the stadiums but the Owners who just take and take from the City/States give something back.

    • Matt Briedis

      They do give something back. We call it taxes. Taxes from the income that directly comes from the paychecks of all who work at the stadiums from the professional athletes to the hot dog vendor in the stands. Then there is the indirect taxes from the fans that come into these cities with stadiums spending money on goods and services at local business before and/or after the games, and this assumes that the aforementioned sports teams aren’t also paying property taxes.

    • Casper

      They give plenty back. Calculate the cost of their absence.

      • Taxed Enough Already

        Those dollars will be spent somewhere else employing average people who don’t make millions a year at the taxpayer’s expense.

      • Kevin Pearson

        Whenever a team in the playoffs, the broadcasts always give aerial shots of the city and the environs, that is priceless publicity.

  • NoParty

    Its a truly stupid law. What makes these politicians think it is right or humane to treat the homeless like cattle or sheep that they can move to different pasture when the Sports Season begins? What gives the politicians the right to mandate that one group of business owners give the homeless shelter, electric, bathrooms? It isn’t because they have gotten funds from the State as many other business’s get subsidizes in some form or other. Not all homeless are just people down on their luck…many are drug addicts, alcoholics, and predators of one sort or the other…why would any business person want to take responsibility for housing them? Who came up with this bizarre law back in 1988?

  • Bopper

    Sounds like fun. I think I’ll become homeless.

  • Don

    This will be a disaster. Look what happened to the New Orleans Superdome during Huricane Katrina. The inside of the Dome was destroyed by the people staying there. The also stole a lot of the fixtures and furniture.

  • thurston

    They will doo doo up the place just like the dirty Katrina victims did in Superdome.

  • Matt Briedis

    This is the kind of proposal I would expect from a Democrat considering its apparent total disregard for personal property rights. If any given space belongs wholly to government and is not leased to another entity like a professional sports team then government is free to do whatever with its property otherwise government can go pound sand. The question that needs to be asked is how many homeless that the dull tool legislators who came up with this piece of unconstitutional garbage are housing in their own homes on their own property? If this is such a good idea then they need to practice what they preach at home. If they aren’t willing to pony up their own property then they certainly have no business trying to tell anyone else about theirs.

    • Forest

      Did you even read the d&mn article for the reasoning behind this?

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