Frustrated by the ongoing homeless plague invading the city’s revitalized downtown, Pensacola officials are proposing a new measure to banish all homeless people from the city limits.
The move comes after officials decided an earlier plan to simply criminalize begging didn’t go far enough.
“I realize not everybody can make mid-six figures like me,” said Downtown Improvement Board chairman John Peacock, in a letter supporting the proposed ban. “But just because you’re not as well-off as other people, that doesn’t give you the right to go around depressing people.”
Peacock said he’s tired of homeless people making him feel sad.
“That’s my problem with the homeless: They spend all their time shuffling around in their unkempt, smelly hand-me-down clothes, making you feel awful about having a great job and a waterfront condo,” Peacock added. “Well, I don’t think they should make us feel sad like that.”
“So many people have worked so hard to make downtown Pensacola as upscale as possible,” said downtown restaurateur Collier Merrill. “To be completely honest, this horde of dirty beggars is a blemish on our community, and it’s time to send them packing.”
The Downtown Improvement Board has been lobbying Mayor Ashton Hayward, who agreed to cosponsor the ban.
“I was stopped at the light in my Lexus RC Coupe, on my way to pick up a new pair of Gucci penny loafers, when a homeless man knocked on my window saying ‘God Bless,'” said Hayward. “It was an awful experience to put someone of my status and wealth through.”
While critics say the proposed law would run counter to fundamental American principles and liberties, city officials are confident the ordinance will pass muster.
Reached for comment, city attorney Lysia Bowling said that while they initially thought such a ban might be unconstitutional, there is recent legal precedence.
“Frankly, the game has changed with the election of President Trump,” Bowling said. “Obviously, this ordinance would infringe on long-established civil liberties, but so does the president’s Muslim ban, and that seems to be going pretty well.”
Bowling also pointed to the City of Gulf Breeze’s longstanding policy of driving vagrants across the Pensacola Bay Bridge and dumping them on the Pensacola side of the bridge.
“Gulf Breeze has been doing this for years,” Bowling said. “If they don’t let homeless people wander around their city, why should we?”
“Plus, with a new Supreme Court justice on the way, we feel pretty good about our chances in court,” Bowling added. “We’re confident the ordinance will hold up when we’re inevitably sued by the ACLU. We really don’t get why they have such a hard-on for basic human rights.”
But the local officials aren’t alone. On Monday afternoon, several people shopping and dining in Palafox Street’s trendy SOGO district were verbally accosted by homeless panhandlers uttering offensive statements like, “I’m hungry.”
“If the homeless want to be treated better, they should understand that people like us want to be able to enjoy a meal at an outdoor cafe in our beautiful, rapidly gentrifying downtown without having to look at some dirty, scraggly homeless guy digging through the trash,” said one old rich white guy dining with his wife on Palafox Street Monday afternoon.
“If they must hang around restaurants, why not loiter at fast food places like Wendy’s, where people more like them tend to eat?” he added. “Decent people like us want to enjoy our $15 SOGO salad without having to see a vagrant sitting next to us, reeking of his own urine. Nothing kills an appetite faster!”
Peacock echoed their sentiments.
“The high-income visitors we’re hoping to attract downtown want to see our shops and art galleries, not homeless veterans,” Peacock said. “They need to realize that wealthy, well-fed people have feelings too. Honestly, it’s pretty selfish of the homeless to shove their misfortune in our faces like that. If they must be out in public where everyone can see them, can’t they at least fake a smile? A smile is free — even a homeless person can afford that.”