Florida may not get as cold as many other parts of the United States, but for those who are homeless and living on the streets, this can still be a pretty miserable time of year.
That’s why so many charity groups, and even private citizens, often give out blankets and new socks to homeless people they see on the streets of big cities like Miami. But a recent ban of doing just that threatens to punish people for their kindness.
The ban came as one of a series of ordinances prohibiting using public restrooms for washing your face, as well as panhandling, and “camping”. This last prohibition essentially banned homeless people from protecting themselves from the elements.
The series of bans also made it effectively illegal to be homeless.
That is, under this new ban, homeless people are no longer allowed to cover themselves whatsoever. Even given homeless people blankets is forbidden.
Public outcry against these ordinances was great, but they were passed nevertheless.
Austin Petersen writes that upon starting a petition against these ordinances, “within a day we had nearly 1,000 signatures opposing the ordinance.”
“People began to ask the question, ‘Could this ordinance be used on me, or just the homeless?’ And the answer from the legal staff of the city is that yes, this law was applicable to anyone who used a blanket or news paper to cover themselves in public. Even if you got stuck in a city park because it was raining and you tried to shield yourself, you would technically be in violation of this ordinance and subject to arrest. So would your wife and child if they laid down with a blanket at a picnic or festival.”
The mayor quickly attempted to distance himself from the ordinances, placing blame on the council, even though it has been proven time and again that the memos came directly from his office, at his request. Then the mayor tried to downplay the concern of people saying that there was enough shelter, and that “no one was taking blankets away from the homeless.” But the problem is that the mayor was answering questions no one was asking, directed at accusations no one made. The issue is not that the mayor was taking away people’s blankets, because honestly that would be a violation of the illegal search and seizure clause in the constitution, but rather that someone could be arrested simply for being homeless.
He noted that options like “shelters” are few and far between, while others require people to undergo religious indoctrination that simply makes many uncomfortable.
(Article by M. David and Reagan Ali)