After Criminalizing Homeless Disney World Cast Members, Florida Wants To Make It Easier To Commit Them to Mental Hospitals

in Disney, Disney Parks, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Cast Members cheer on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland Paris

Credit: Disney

In its latest session, the Florida Legislature criminalized homelessness in the state. HB 1365 made it illegal in Florida to build homeless encampments or sleep on public property, both of which have made homelessness more difficult in the state.

Some estimates say that as many as 10 percent of cast members at the Walt Disney World Resort are homeless, ensuring that this law directly impacts them.

Disney World entrance with homeless camps
Credit: Inside the Magic

Related: Disney Worked Behind the Scenes to Strip Cast Members of a Basic Human Right

When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed his bill, he said it would ensure “law and order” and that homeless people would have the resources to get back on their feet.

However, a recent report from the Orlando Sentinel suggests that DeSantis and the Florida Government intend to go much further to eradicate homelessness in the state, including making it easier to commit homeless people to mental institutions involuntarily and banning local governments from instituting “housing first” initiatives which treat homelessness as a housing problem rather than a mental illness, drug, or disability problem.

In an email obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, the Cicero Institute, a Texas-based group funded by billionaire Joe Lonsdale, told the state leaders that HB 1365 was just the first step in “eradicating the homeless-industrial complex.”

Related: With No Fanfare, DeSantis Signs Two Bills That Allow Disney World to Hire Children For Dangerous Jobs

As part of the group’s efforts, the next step would be to make it easier for police and other local leaders to involuntarily institutionalize homeless people and move money away from “housing first” initiatives toward mental facilities.

Lonsdale said shortly after HB 1365 became law:

When we started working on homelessness, many people considered these ideas fringe. Activists have vociferously opposed us at every turn. It takes guts to stand up to the homeless-industrial complex. This is the strongest set of homelessness reforms in the nation, and we were proud to work with Florida leaders to see them adopted.

However, the issue for most Disney World cast members isn’t mental illness but the availability of affordable housing in Central Florida. The 10 percent of cast members work full-time but still cannot afford basic needs like food and housing.

In the years since COVID, millions of people have relocated to Florida from other states, driving up housing prices. So, while working at Disney World pays comparatively more than other jobs in the state, there is still a lack of affordable housing that is driving these cast members into homelessness.

Disney cast members posing in a frame that reads "we are the magic"
Credit: Disney

So, while this bill and others like it will remove homeless people from the site, it will not solve the underlying issue of affordable housing in Central Florida that is plaguing Walt Disney World cast members.

The report also says that the Cicero Institute wrote most of HB 1365, and shortly after the bill was sent to Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, the Institute provided more than $20,000 in free catering to the Republican Party of Florida.

Some estimates put the total number of cast members working at Disney World at around 77,000, which means approximately 7,700 of them are currently without a permanent home. In 2022, the state of Florida had the third-highest homeless population in America.

So, expect more action on homelessness during the next legislative session and the possibility that cast members in need could be sent to mental institutions against their will.

What do you think about Florida allowing homeless people to be institutionalized without their consent? 

in Disney, Disney Parks, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

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