Less than two months after filing suit against the City of Ocala for enforcing an open lodging ordinance specifically targeting people who are homeless, Southern Legal Counsel, the ACLU of Florida and pro bono attorney Andy Pozzuto passed their first legal hurdle when the city failed in its attempt to have the suit dismissed.

The ordinance criminalizes sleeping outside in all public areas of the city only if the person reports being homeless, while allowing others to sleep outside. Since the city offers inadequate shelter for its homeless population, the advocacy organizations argued, the ordinance effectively outlaws people who are homeless.

“As Plaintiffs argue, if the open lodging ordinance were enforced when there were no alternatives, then it could implicate fundamental rights," wrote U.S. District Judge James S. Moody in his order dated Nov. 13, 2019.