I think most of us can agree that life isn’t easy. So many Americans live in a perpetual state of fear about the future. Going paycheck to paycheck, one long string of bad luck away from total catastrophe. I remember when I was a server thinking sometimes that all it took was one wrong step, breaking my ankle, and I would have been absolutely screwed. What good is a server if you can’t walk?
Our lives can change in an instant. We’re brought up in different environments and have to overcome different obstacles. It’s why I try not to judge people (outside of their willful ignorance) because I really don’t know what they’ve had to overcome in life or what led them to their particular hardships.
This is especially true when I encounter a homeless person. Granted some homeless are in their situation in life due to their own decisions, but many aren’t. And like most things in life, once you dig yourself into that kind of a “poverty hole,” it’s really hard to get yourself out of it.
The last thing I’d ever support, or want to see happen, is for a city to pass laws that almost seem to be picking on homeless people. Laws or ordinances that make the lives of people who already live in extremely challenging situations even more difficult.
But that’s exactly what’s happening in Pensacola, Florida.
Right now there’s a “camping ordinance” within the city that basically makes it illegal for anyone outside to cover themselves with a newspaper or blanket in cold or otherwise inclement weather.
It’s ridiculous. Before even getting into the impact this has on the homeless, let’s just look at how this could impact an ordinary citizen. Say you’re caught outside in the rain with only a newspaper to keep you dry while you wait outside for a bus – technically that’s illegal.
But of course the real people this ordinance will impact are the thousands of homeless people who are left freezing outside (Florida has had an abnormally cold winter this year) who have to make the conscious decision to break the law just to keep themselves warm.
Isn’t it hard enough just being homeless? Do we really need to make their lives even more difficult? Hell, isn’t this flat-out inhumane? To tell someone who has nowhere to go, no home to keep warm in, that they’ll be breaking the law if they dare try to shield themselves from freezing temperatures and high winds – it’s reprehensible.
Every person who’s homeless has their own unique story as to why they’re in their current situation. Again, some are there because of their own volition and choices in life. But many suffer the plight of homelessness due to circumstances beyond their control. And let us not forget that many of these individuals are war veterans suffering from PTSD or people who were born with other mental illnesses that (since birth) have prevented them from ever standing a chance at assimilating into society.
But this isn’t about judging why someone is homeless. This is about common sense and basic human decency to treat some of those who are most vulnerable in our society with at least a shred of compassion.
Next week, the city will be considering amending the City Code to remove this awful ordinance. I would encourage everyone reading this to contact the Mayor of Pensacola, Ashton J. Hayward, and let him know that this lack of basic humanity must stop.