Target: Mayor of Pensacola, Ashton Hayward
Goal: Repeal law that criminalizes blanket use by homeless people
An outrageous ordinance in Florida illegalizes the use of blankets or similar items to keep warm outdoors. While supposedly intended to prevent unwanted camping activities, private emails between city council members suggest that the ordinance was directed at homeless people.
Forbidden activities include sleeping outdoors under shelter such as blankets, newspaper, or cardboard, as well as bathing in public. This not only harms the already disadvantaged homeless population, but it is also a ridiculous inconvenience for non-homeless citizens. If an individual is temporarily stuck outdoors or attends an outdoor event, they could also be arrested for using a blanket or similar material to shield themselves from the cold.
Despite Florida’s typically warm climate, temperatures often drop significantly at night, making homeless individuals vulnerable to the cold. This winter has been uncharacteristically cold in Florida, with temperatures falling below freezing on multiple occasions.
Surprisingly, a major Pensacola shelter allows individuals to stay for only three days if they do not join a drug treatment program, even if they do not suffer from drug addiction. Therefore, the only option for those without drug problems is to sleep outside at least some of the time.
This ordinance gives the homeless population of Florida even fewer options for safety and comfort. Tell Florida that keeping warm is a personal right. Sign this petition urging Mayor Hayward to retract this pitiful ordinance.
Dear Ashton Hayward,
Since enacted in 2013, citizens have been voicing concern and asking city council to reconsider the implications of the ordinance forbidding the use of blankets and other materials to keep warm outside. They’ve been ignored in the past and they continue to be ignored despite several petitions.
Although this ordinance may have had good intent, it creates more difficult conditions for an already disadvantaged group. It forces an individual to make a choice between keeping warm and breaking the law. This is not realistic and it infringes upon human rights at a foundational level.
While shelters are available, living conditions are often poor. One Pensacola shelter has a stay limit of 3 days per month for those not enrolled in a drug treatment program. This obviously means that those without drug problems must sleep outdoors sometimes. For some, shelter life may be undesirable or even intolerable due to various issues like crime, confined space, and the like.
No accommodations have been made for the homeless since this ordinance was enacted last year. Since temperatures in Florida have been exceptionally cold this winter, no one can be expected to refrain from covering him or herself with a blanket. This includes non-homeless citizens who are temporarily stuck outdoors.
Please stop ignoring public pleas and retract this harmful ordinance.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: flag of Freedom via Wikimedia Commons