Although a web-based news blogger, I still find it abnormal to refer to oneself in writing, but considering the context and issue at hand, I’ll make an exception this one time. And as a resident of Pensacola, FL, I find this particularly sickening.
Last May, our Pensacola City Council passed a “camping” ordinance that criminalizes sleeping outdoors “adjacent to or inside a tent or sleeping bag, or atop and/or covered by materials such as a bedroll, cardboard, newspapers, or inside some form of temporary shelter.” In short, homeless people can’t sleep with a blanket, which called for a vehement outcry against our city leaders.
Now, I do realized that this ordinance has been on the books since last summer. But as a frequenter of Vice.com, when I saw their piece about my city and its ordinance, I became infuriated. We at RoF like to keep it clean, so I’m going to refrain from certain words and phrases that would naturally come to mind about this. I’ll ease the emotion, but remain candid.
Portions of society see the homeless as a nuisance and, within the most elite groups, a social parasite. They are thought of as lazy, apathetic, and without purpose. But the truth is that since some are so quick to pass judgement, people fail to consider the fact that everyone has their own story. We don’t know for certain what brought a person into a life of squalor.
And it’s unfair to pin certain characteristics on someone because of outward appearances, but that is, unfortunately, a trait of some people. However, it’s also a human trait to identify our shortcomings and remind ourselves of the unhealthiness of them.
Anyway, back to the ordinance. Pensacola passed the ordinance because the council thinks homeless people sleeping with blankets negatively affects Pensacola’s “aesthetics, sanitation, public health, and safety of its citizens.”
Aesthetics are not on the city’s agenda as much as they like to portray. Pensacola, for the last few years, has been pouring a lot of money, time, and effort into revitalizing the downtown area. For example, the recent addition of the Maritime Park, a multipurpose field that acts primarily as a baseball stadium for our minor league baseball team. Then drive west for about two minutes.
The Warrington neighborhood, so closely adjacent to downtown Pensacola, is peppered with abandoned homes and businesses. For lack of a better word, it’s a slum. Because the area doesn’t have the economic viability seen as beneficial to the city, it remains overlooked. And if the city wants to tackle sanitation and public health, there are larger issues in town than homeless people sleeping with blankets.
In recent years, Pensacola was given the title of having America’s worst water. A national survey taken by the Environmental Working Group found 101 dangerous contaminants in the city’s water supply, 21 exceeded mandated limits. Among these contaminants are radium-226 and -228, lead, benzene, chloroform, and even cyanide. The city and county appear to have done little to address the issue.
The Pensacola City Council will vote tomorrow on amending this homeless-criminalizing and obtuse legislative misstep. The ordinance should have never been passed in the first place. It’s a gross lack of judgement, and overall, it exudes inhumanity on an importantly large scale. However, there are other proposals being introduced within the council intended to address Pensacola’s “homelessness epidemic.”
Even the use of the word “epidemic,” which is usually meant to describe the spread of disease, illustrates a persistent lack of concern and compassion for the homeless in our city. The city argues that the ordinance will raise the quality of life in the city. But its logic is preserve and improve the quality for some at the expense of others. Pensacola city council members are punishing the homeless for being homeless.