Caring Pensacola Politics

City of Pensacola had a plan for helping homeless ‘graduate’ off the streets

April 20, 2017

In 2014, the City of Pensacola paid $30,000 to hire a consultant to make recommendations on how it could help the homeless in the community.

When a freeze iced over much of the city in January 2014, Mayor Hayward and the city drew international criticism for an ordinance that banned blankets in city park.

In his Feb. 7, 2014 “Upwords”, Hayward announced that he and Councilman Larry Johnson were working together to establish “an advisory committee on improving human services…comprised of professionals and advocates, tasked with collecting data and producing a set of fiscally-responsible, realistic, and actionable recommendations.”

When a resolution come forward to form the task force, Councilman Johnson said, “Tonight we’re trying to do the right thing. We had unanimous vote to look an ordinance and to tweak it, I look for this task force to look at all ordinances and tweak them. Thank you for very much my fellow council members.”

The resolution passed unanimously, and later the city council approved hiring Robert Marbut for $30,000 to work with local advocacy groups on recommendations. For some reason, he didn’t simply just recommend to repeal and replace the ordinances.

The final report made six recommendations. Two involved repealing and modifying ordinances dealing with downtown panhandling and the homeless, which were recommended by the mayor and  former City Administrator Bill Reynolds and passed in 2013. Eventually the council did.

However, the other four that involved helping the homeless have been ignored and forgotten:

!) Move from a Culture of Enablement to a Culture of Engagement: The goal would be not merely serve the homeless, but help them “graduate” from the streets. The recommendation was to create a dignity awareness campaign. The LEAP meters are a step in that direction, but the city has done nothing on developing an active, on-going campaign.

2) Transform HMIS from a “Score Keeper Model” to a “Proactive Case Management Tool.” HMIS stands for Homeless Management Information System. There has been some movement towards this among the non-profits that help the homeless.

3) Increase the number of emergency housing units for families and children. Launch a fund-raising campaign to raise enough construction and operating dollars to expand the number of units.

4) Establish a True 24/7 “Come-As-You-Are” Service Center. Marbut suggested it be done at Waterfront Rescue Mission.

The task force even told the Mayor and City Council what should be its next steps for those recommendations:

a) Develop and implement an awareness campaign to educate and encourage the overall community to move from a Culture of Enablement to a Culture of Engagement.

b) Make funding to service agencies contingent upon being proactive participants in HMIS.

c) Explore feasibility of increasing the number of emergency housing units.

d) Explore feasibility a 24/7 “Come-As-You-Are” Service Center at the Waterfront Rescue Mission.

e) Modify code to accommodate emergency housing units for families with children.

Read report

The recent panhandling ordinance passed by the city council and endorsed by the mayor will be challenged in court by the ACLU. Former Council President Maren DeWeese and others believe the federal courts will strike it (Read more).

Mayor Hayward needs to dust off the report and revisit the recommendations. Doing nothing hasn’t worked.

Other articles:

Ordinances Finding a Home – Rick’s Blog

May 7, 2013 – Mayor Ashton Hayward had placed three proposed ordinances on … This year, Hayward’s homeless ordinances seem set for smooth sailing.

No Panhandling in the Upside – Rick’s Blog

 Jun 14, 2013 – The final installment of the so-called ‘homeless‘ ordinances was approved by the Pensacola City Council last night. The new …

Petition for Mayor Ashton Hayward to repeal no blanket ordinance …

Jan 31, 2014 – However, city officials are refusing to examine an… ordinance they passed last year making it illegal for the homeless to even use a blanket to …

Hayward wants to change his homeless ordinance – Rick’s Blog

 Feb 7, 2014 – Though Mayor Ashton Hayward fails to mention last year’s homeless ordinances came from his office and places blame on the city council, …

WTF moments pile up for Hayward and Pensacola – Rick’s Blog

Feb 12, 2014 – For Mayor Ashton Hayward, the homeless issue has been one of over~reaching in he is battle against it and the Occupy movement.

Task force on homeless established by Pensacola City Council …

Feb 15, 2014 – The task force is expected to make recommendations on viable solutions to help the city help the homeless. In his Feb. 7 “Upwords”, Hayward …

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1 Comment

  • Reply CJ Lewis April 20, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    In the end, this is a county problem. Every person who lives in the City of Pensacola lives in Escambia County. Every homeless person in the City of Pensacola is homeless “in” Escambia County. The city covers less than 4% of the land mass of Escambia County. The city’s population is down to about 16% of the county’s total population. The city has limited resources its taxpayers already stretched to the breaking point to include paying extra taxes not paid by county residents and paying for the Sheriff’s road patrols that are not conducted inside city limits. Mayor Hayward’s counterpart County Administrator Brown and the City Council’s counterparts the Board of County Commissioner need to step up to the plate and show leadership. Better yet, they should work in partnership with Santa Rosa County because the two counties are joined at the hip.

    On the city side, the real problem being ignored is that the Pensacola Police Department does not seem to actively enforce an existing law Section 8-1-25 Panhandling. It applies citywide with certain other time, place and area restrictions and covers far more than just “aggressive” panhandling. Why is that? Section 8-1-25 is an expansive and well-written law that also prohibits panhandling that creates a safety hazard “and” outlaws it in total in other cases such as at bus stops or near an ATM. A smarter approach with respect to the so-called “Downtown Visitors’ District” would be to add it to the existing law as a new Section 8-1-25((3)(e). That is more likely to be legally defensible.

    Section 8-1-25 expressly provides that the act of “passively standing or sitting with a sign or other indication that one is seeking donations without addressing the request to any specific person” is not regulated by this law to include meaning that this type of “passive” conduct is not soliciting, begging or panhandling. So long as a person does not violate any of the many provisions in the existing law, Section 8-1-25, they are free to passively stand or sit and ask for money just as a politician can do the same and ask for your vote. The new DIB law – Section 8-1-28 – that only applies within a part (not all) of the DIB District, makes such passive conduct illegal. Like it or not, the federal court case law appears to say that it is a violation of the First Amendment to try to regulate such passive conduct. Because this fact seems well known to everyone to include the City Council, you have to wonder who successfully pressured five of them to vote YES for a law they know is going to be overturned at least in part.

    The City Council should make the DIB pay to enforce Section 8-1-28. The City Council should also make the DIB agree to assume responsibility for all legal costs associated with defending Section 8-1-28 in court. The DIB property owners have some of the deepest pockets in the community. Let them pay to defend and enforce their special law. There is plenty of fat to trim in the DIB budget if they try to claim poverty. Further, the DIB is a special taxing district whose property owners pay a special tax. If they want, they can increase the millage rate to enforce Section 8-1-28. If Section 8-1-28 becomes law, the rest of the city is going to have its hands full dealing with panhandlers moving outwards and upwards (to the north).

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