Jeremy's Notebook

Ordinances Finding a Home

May 7, 2013

homelessAs the Pensacola City Council considered blessing a collection of ordinances that are “not directed toward any particular group,” a young woman relayed to them her experience years ago of being homeless.

“I had to sleep in my car,” she told the council. “That was very scary in and of itself. I cannot even imagine having to worry about being arrested.”

Mayor Ashton Hayward had placed three proposed ordinances on council’s table. The first prohibits “camping”—ranging from tents to covering with cardboard-blankets—while the second pertained to public restrooms and the third packaged together public urination and defecation with “aggressive solicitation, begging or panhandling.”

The administration floated similar efforts in late 2011—in the waning midst of the Occupy Pensacola campout at Pensacola City Hall—only to see them die before council as a vocal contingent of homeless advocates and religious organizations cried foul. This year, Hayward’s homeless ordinances seem set for smooth sailing.

“If any of y’all sitting here think this is easy to do, you are mistaken,” Council President P.C. Wu addressed the public gallery of decided opposition.

By the end of last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, council had signed off on the ordinances before them. While the public urination/defecation aspect passed unanimously, the other ordinances relied on a consistent block of six council members. The “aggressive begging” portion of the third ordinance was carved out and held until the next COW due to it being a last-minute add-on to Monday’s agenda.

“Holy crap, seriously?” said Jason King, as the first vote made it clear what direction the evening would be taking.

King heads up Sean’s Outpost, a local organization that works with the homeless community. He was among several people urging council to reject the proposed ordinances.

No one from the public spoke in favor of the ordinances. Several spoke against it. They dove into Biblical parables, said the ordinances dealt with symptoms not the root problems, and accused officials of simply trying to push the homeless population outside the city limits.

“What’s the plan here guys?” King asked. “What are these guys suppose to do?”

With the exceptions of Sherri Myers, Charles Bare and Gerald Wingate, council was in no mood for such discussions. With assurances from City Administrator Bill Reynolds that the city will attempt to educate the local homeless population about available resources and also lobby for additional funds to put toward such ends, the council is apparently ready to embrace the ordinances.

The ordinances—with the exception of the “aggressive begging” portion—will have their first reading Thursday night at the regular council meeting, with the second and final readying set for council’s May 23 meeting. The “aggressive” portion will be discussed during council’s next COW.

City Council meets Thursday, at 5:30 p.m., at Pensacola City Hall.

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  • Bill Mash May 8, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    Excellent piece on the Criminalization of Homelessness

  • jeeperman May 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    What a Joke,
    You need to go back and read my comment(s) again.
    When I say bums, panhandles and transients, I am talking about panhandlers, bums and transients.
    When I talk about the homeless, I call them the homeless.
    Unfortunately people like you do not understand the difference between the two groups.
    And the factions that want money to help both groups only use the term “homeless” to extract more money from all possible sources.

    And I will argue that there are far more bums, panhandlers and transients then there are homeless people.

    P.S. in case you missed it, BPT’s are not homeless and do not consider themselves homeless.

    You have now been educated, your welcome.

  • fudgeU May 8, 2013 at 3:13 am

    There is no way to solve a human problem with diplomatic bullcorn. The homeless have relational, societal and mental problems. It seems loving personal contact over a period of time could possibly remedy this, but instead we make survival a crime. Being homeless has been a crime for some time, True to form, police officers lie to make the person fit a crime and get the offensive person in jail. Cops should be locked up. There is not a single pig who has not lied on a report in order to “case up” (build a case according to a law or statute)an arrestee.

    f%^k all of us ’cause none of us truly cares about our fellow man.

  • Ames May 7, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    I AM NOT following myself, and I’m not following you, either, btw.

  • What a Joke May 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    jeeperman — judge much? Do you know any homeless people? Many aren’t bums, panhandlers or transients. Many are single moms, struggling to take care of their kids, living out of a car. I don’t think Pensacola has the resources to help these people. And many, like you, assume the worst. Most don’t choose to be homeless. And the fact that you assume that they do speaks volumes about you — and not in a good way.

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