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The Unbearable Cruelty of Banning Blankets for the Homeless

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homeless-feet (1)Does the city of Pensacola, Florida care more about the comfort of cats than the dignity and safety of human beings? That certainly seems to be the case. Last week, a local news warning suggested that residents bring pets inside to protect them from cold temperatures. But the city prohibited its homeless population from covering themselves to keep out the cold.

The Pensacola ordinance said a person may not be “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.”

Jeremy Bosso, who writes about local politics in the area, was sickened by the inhumane treatment. “I think we should extend that courtesy to our fellow humans,” he said of the effort to lift the prohibition of blankets in public. “I mean, we do it for the animals, and I think we should respect life at all stages.”

Last year, Pensacola enacted four ordinances last year restricting actions of homeless people. But on Thursday, after expressions of outrage by the community, the council repealed the “blanket ban.” Before becoming law, though, the proposal still will have to pass a second reading later this month.

The reversal is tepidly commendable: a shift from abject cruelty to benign neglect. But the fact that the City Council thought such an ordinance promoted justice and served the interest of the community is astonishing. What did they think would be accomplished by stripping the homeless of blankets and newspapers? Did they think it would force them to move to a warmer climate? Were they supposed to find a more temperate locale than Pensacola, Florida?

Chronic homelessness is a difficult problem, and local politicians deserve our sympathy and support in their attempts to find solutions. Yet every Christian in America should be appalled and outraged by this type of ordinance. To strip the homeless of their most basic means of survival is unconscionable.

How can we call ourselves Christians and allow such sadistic policies to be enacted in our name? How can we bring a pet in from the cold and allow those who are made in the image of God to shiver under piles of discarded newspapers? We need to show the homeless that whatever else they’ve lost — job, home, family — they still have their dignity. And we also need to show our politicians what happens to them when they lose their sense of humanity.

(Via: Mark Shea)

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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