It’s not enough that the poor are punished with homelessness

It’s not enough that the poor are punished with homelessness February 18, 2014

The state makes sure that they are also punished with hypothermia and, if all goes well, death.

Florida Ordinance Makes It Illegal For Homeless To Use Blankets

Reader Michele Arnold remarks:

The city claims that this applies equally to all who are covered with blankets in public, and not just to the homeless. Let’s see how fast the jails fill up with concert-goers, stadium attendees, and babies in carriages, shall we?

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” – Anatole France

Do the people who make such laws not fear God?

If ever you take your neighbor’s garment in pledge, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down; for that is his only covering, it is his mantle for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. (Exodus 22:26-27)

New Atheists wonder why we should pay any attention to the thinking of a savage brutal people from a backward civilization. I sometimes wonder exactly that about the civilization in which the New Atheists live.

"I asked a question, not a statement..."

Noodling Leviticus with a Reader
"Oh heavens no. I can’t stop. The Bishops have ordered Four more children. Pimps be ..."

Noodling Leviticus with a Reader
"I don't think it's helpful to bracket "pedophiles and pederasts" in contrast to "gay men". ..."

Another heroic saint in the Church ..."
"Dave Armstrong has some enlightening observations here: Regardless of which side one sits on, ..."

Simcha Fisher Gets It

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Sally Wilkins

    utterly obscene

  • Rachel

    words cannot describe how sick, how heartless this is :(. I’m disgusted.

  • kirthigdon

    The linked article is written by an Orthodox priest and published in a libertarian publication. Apparently libertarians are in the lead in defending the homeless and trying to get this cruel ordinance repealed. I think this shows how unfair it is to equate all libertarians with Ayn Rand. There are many varieties of libertarians, most of them uninfluenced by Rand and many of them very much opposed to her philosophy.
    Kirt Higdon

    • Andy, Bad Person

      You didn’t read the comments, did you?

      • Mariana Baca

        I read some of the comments, admittedly over six hours ago. Most were appalled at this regulation and thought it was an abuse of everyone’s rights and were suggesting civil disobedience to deal with this issue. Maybe the tenor of the commenters have changed since I last checked. The nature of internet comments is fickle.

  • CJ

    Well at least it’s Florida. Now realy cruelty would be if this law were passed in Minnesota.

  • MarylandBill

    This seems to be an all too unfortunate trend in our society. We have the state “helping” the poor and then making sure that nothing, whether its private charity or even the poor themselves are allowed to really help. It also doesn’t help that too many people would prefer not see the poor (and how many people assume that every person they see on the street is simply an addict). I know I don’t do enough… but I at least don’t want God accusing me of pretending the poor don’t exist.

  • Eve Fisher

    Except that I’m willing to wager that each and every council member in Pensacola, FL (and everywhere else that they’re passing laws against homelessness, camping, or whatever they call it at the time) is a self-proclaimed “Christian”, if nothing else because atheists generally aren’t elected to public office in this country. So everyone’s a Christian, everyone’s a conservative, everyone’s a patriot: except, as it says in the Bible, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” These are very rotten fruits. Oh, and no, I’m not an atheist, and yes, I’m a self-proclaimed Christian and a sinner, too. But still…

  • tofubamboo

    That is a law that makes no sense whatsoever. How can anyone be offended by someone covered in a blanket????? Would they rather that person become a corpse?

    • HornOrSilk

      Well, the law makes sense if you get where they are coming from. It’s inhumane and evil, yes. However, the purpose is to have all the homeless kicked out of the area. And this will force them to “move on.” So they think.

    • KM

      I’m beginning to think that our elite would like to turn America into India with beggars everywhere on the open streets. Slumdog America.

      My 93-year-old WWII-veteran father-in-law made a wise observation that Western society was relatively “civilized” because it had made a choice, that is, a social compact to take care of the poor and needy rather than have them fend for themselves and die in the streets. But now it seems society is unraveling and becoming less civilized and more brutish and third-world in its attitudes. As a society we have to make a choice which way we want to go: to be brutal and nasty to our fellow human beings, or to be more civilized to each other and especially to the neediest among us.

      • We could solve about a third of the homeless problem if we revisited deinstitutionalization and it would be some of the most scary third. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

        De-institutionalization was supposed to be a compassionate improvement. It’s turned out to be a major driver in creating the modern homeless problem.

        • Agree. There are a LOT of pieces to this puzzle, so much so that I honestly have no idea how to help concretely beyond supporting the parish food bank that feeds the homeless fellas, but there’s certainly a good chunk of them that have “issues” of some kinds. But even here I’m conflicted– one of the guys I see around town all the time IS pretty scary. He needs a lot of help, beyond just a place to sleep at night.

          But there’s another one who wouldn’t hurt a fly, happy as a clam, and shows up at daily Mass intermittently. I’m guessing mentally disabled. “Putting him away” would physically benefit him in terms of guaranteeing him three hots and a cot, but what if it completely broke him? Aaargh. I’ll keep helping the food bank.

    • Ed Pie

      If there weren’t blankets to make those park benches so comfortable, maybe the homeless would finally get up and buy some homes; start giving back to the real estate market. Right?

  • KM

    Looks like after a community outcry, Republican mayor Ashton Hayward of Pensacola is reversing his support for the blanket ban.

    “In his weekly newsletter, distributed Friday, the mayor said he had
    decided — after “reflecting and praying” — to support an ordinance that
    would repeal the blanket ban — the most controversial provision of the
    year-old law.”

    I wonder if the mayor’s occupation as a real estate developer had something to do with the original ban. The homeless people with blankets are such a drag on property values! Best to ban them so they can shuffle along somewhere else.

    • “Reflecting and praying…” *sigh* The evangelicals need to have their own Leo XIII. Oh, wait. They did have their own Leo XIII. His name was Leo XIII.

  • KM

    “The poor in the US have never had it so good.” So said a commenter from a previous thread here at your blog.

    What are the blanket-less whining about? Instead of *envying* those with blankets, why not just cover themselves with newspapers or cardboard boxes? What’s stopping the blanket-less from turning this into an entrepreneurial start-up opportunity that could make them millions of dollars? Please, no need to thank me for my humble solutions offered by my superior intellect. (/sarcasm)

    • Actually, the two statements are not contradictory. You’d have to establish that in the past, legislation this bad or worse was not passed at least as frequently. The US has 1 federal government, 50 states, and about 30k general purpose governments give or take a few thousand. It simply is not realistic that all of them are going to be wise. Given any realistic bell curve distribution, some of them are going to be downright mean. But that’s no more true today than a hundred years ago.

      • KM

        Not trying to over-analyze this but rather point out the mean-spirited rhetoric and philosophy of our current times which only encourages such “laws.” Not sure if the Pensacola council thought such a law would not be noticed, but at any rate it’s good to see that the public finally had some say. Contrary to what many defeatist conservative friends have told me, people can bring about positive change in their communities.

        • I think that we, especially small government types like me but really all of us, should actually pay attention and make sure that there are enough opportunities for homeless people to pick themselves up and put themselves on a pathway back up to the middle class if they apply themselves.

          There are a long line of government interventions that get in the way of that. There is also human frailty in broken minds and addiction that pose greater than average problems. I see us a long way away from getting to that happy public policy state but what you were mocking *is* the right end point to aim for. We consciously reduce economic opportunity for the poor, especially entrepreneurial economic opportunity. That’s not right.

          • KM

            I’m not mocking entrepreneurial opportunity. I’m mocking that conservatives always use “entrepreneurialism” as the cure-all for poor people. Sorry but not everyone has the fortitude, funding, or ambition to be an entrepreneur. Most people (90%) work for someone else and just want a decent wage, decent education for their kids, and a decent affordable place to live. Some people can’t pick themselves up. They need a helping hand.

            • KM


              Here’s inspiration: An Oakland artist turns trash into homes for the homeless. There’s also a group in Madison that is making tiny homes for the homeless. Sure, problems still remain but it’s better than nothing.

            • Marthe Lépine

              I agree with you that not everyone has what it takes to be an entrepreneur. On the other hand, if governments gave a little thought to the people who can, instead of looking to the rich and powerful corporations as job creators, a measure of progress could be made. I was doing some research recently about this. For example, in my country there are just over 3 million self-employed people (16% of Canada’s workforce, according to the Canadian Press). At the same time, the unemployment rate is 7% according to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, e.g. about 1.4 million workers. What do you think would happen if, instead of constantly being harassed with government paperwork, each self-employed person became able to hire one helper? There is not even half the number of workers available to meet this demand… Of course it is not that simple, but looking into micro-financing, for example, to help a self-employed person with cash-flow issues, could certainly make it possible to create several thousands of jobs. But one job at a time does not look as “sexy” as bringing in foreign capital or contributing government loans at the rate, let’s say, of 350 million to build a plant that will eventually hire 400 workers… (adapted from another recent news item in And that is 8.75 million per job!

              • It’s a great post and I agree. I wish there were a way to wave a magic wand and ask all those 3 million self employed two questions
                1. What’s the biggest reason why you don’t hire one more person?
                2. How big a check would it take for you to be able to hire one more person?

                I would bet that the results would be educational for us all.

                • Marthe Lépine

                  In my case it was cash flow. For a self-employed single woman like myself ( husband to co-sign – this is still true nowadays!), the possibility to obtain a line of credit is next to nil. And during my better years, my accountant estimated that the lack of a line of credit cost me about $12,000 a year of unnecessary interest costs and penalties when my clients did not manage to pay their bill in time for the money to be in my account to cover some of the obligatory regular payments. I recently checked with a Mensa colleague who made his living selling retirement investments and asked him how much better off I would be now, at retirement age, if I had been able to invest that money -$1000 a month for 35 years – instead of losing it to the system, and he said that actually I would be a millionaire now.
                  That is the reason I would suggest micro-credit for micro-businesses, sometimes all I needed was a couple of hundred dollars for one month, which would have been repaid as soon as my client found the time (and the willingness – keeping the money in their account and short-term investments brought them a benefit…) to pay me.
                  With less stress and less time wasted dealing with the cash flow, I could have worked more hours and earned more money; that would enabled me to hire someone to help me and… I would have been able to do paid work for even more additional hours, instead of the unpaid work of dealing with government harassment and bills, work that I could have passed on to my helper.

                  • Marthe Lépine

                    And, to add to my own comment above and reply to JM’s 2nd question. How big a cheque would I have needed? I would probably not have needed any cheque at all, the real savings I would have been able to make with some sort of micro-credit would have been sufficient.

            • I very much agree with you that some do need help. About a third of the homeless are mentally ill in the US. We need some sort of mechanism to better deal with their illness than the prison system. An overlapping second group are out of control addicts who prefer their drugs to keeping a roof over their heads.

              The laws of supply and demand are not repealed because the transaction is labor. The free market is screaming out that we need more people shifted out of the role of being paid prior to the sale of whatever is being produced (a good or service) and moving to either at time of sale or after time of sale. Because too many people are trying to shoehorn themselves into a job being paid before production, it’s a game of musical chairs and the unlucky, poorly prepared, and ill end up homeless. Freeing up those slots by quitting the musical chair game is something that we all should take a look at.

              • Adolfo

                “An overlapping second group are out of control addicts who prefer their drugs to keeping a roof over their heads.” Out of control addiction voids the ability for someone to have preferences. That’s sorta what addiction means.

  • A tip of the hat to those pushing for improvement. Apparently 15k signatures on a petition induced a healthy sense of career preservation in the City Council.

    Personally, I don’t know of any major jurisdiction that handles homelessness correctly. It’s a hellish public policy issue that intersects drug addiction, mental illness, poverty traps, and bureaucratic clientism among other issues.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      What about the program in Utah (I think), that is giving them apartments and social workers? Mark posted about it a month or so ago.

  • Why the jab at “New Atheists”? Are they running things in Pensacola?

  • New Atheists wonder why we should pay any attention to the thinking of a
    savage brutal people from a backward civilization. I sometimes wonder
    exactly that about the civilization in which the New Atheists live.

    Right, because it was the atheists who passed that law.

    The real question I ask myself is why so few Christians seem to follow those verses on caring for the poor (like Exodus 22:26-27). Why instead do we hear so much about gay marriage?

    • chezami

      You do realize, don’t you, that the Christian churches are the largest charitable organizations on planet earth. Do you even think before you say such stuff?