Acton Institute Powerblog

The Unbearable Cruelty of Banning Blankets for the Homeless

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

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 But on Thursday, after expressions of outrage by the community, the council repealed the “blanket ban.”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)

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).


  • danieltb

    Have you heard about what they’re doing in Utah with their homeless?
    Supposedly they are on track to wipe out homelessness by 2015.

  • Noura Alghanim

    I’m ok with this. Pets and animals are innocent and loving while humans, especially the homeless kind, are terrible people.

    Let them suffer

    • Joe

      I’m sorry to hear you have been wronged by the homeless. What happened to make you have such animosity towards them?

      • Noura Alghanim

        Using public transportation becomes almost impossible after 9PM with all of the homeless occupying trolley cars, urinating themselves, demanding money, etc. It’s not like the homeless are dumb, they know how to impose on others and how to use fear to get what they want from you. I’ve never seen any of the feral ones, but I wouldn’t put it past any of them to attack or assault someone for a few quarters when they have nothing to lose and more to gain. Perhaps the no-blanket for the bottom feeders law is a way of providing temporary shelter for these people in the comfort of a jail cell, so they can’t make life difficult for anyone else.

        I used to live in the middle east where it was difficult for women to travel outside of large cities without a male companion. Americans think that’s a barbaric system yet try being a single woman taking a trolley in Philadelphia at night. It’s not possible.

  • Dale

    Perhaps more reputable shelters, like Central Union Mission in DC, where they would feel safe would get them off the streets (where they don’t belong).

  • Elissa

    Enforcing vagrancy laws is the most humane action in this case.

  • Chance

    Joe, small grammatical mistake here: “Chronic homelessness is [a] difficult problem…”

  • Jed Baron Miller

    I dont see the ban itself as “flawed or cruel” it is a simple collection of facts….we don’t want to encourage the homeless to sleep “just anywhere” and keeping them from covering up with blankets is the same as keeping kids awake in school by making them sit up straight….that being said I also don’t believe the police of Pensacola (where i live and have several friends on “the force”) were out in the cold arresting all the blanketed homeless people and removing there warmth (that would be cruel). If those who were so concerned with the differences during the cold snap wanted to put there money where there mouth is then when they brought there animals in they would have found a homeless person to house with them as well…however, i asume none to few of the objecters to the law did that

  • mag

    I believe the point would be that if they couldn’t camp out on the sidewalk, they would come in to a shelter and be properly cared for. Isn’t it more heartless to ignore the root problem and throw them a buck and a blanket?

  • This is not good.. Why do they have to deprive others to help. It’s insane!