The Pensacola City Council Thursday voted unanimously for an amendment to the homeless ordinance regarding “camping” on city property and the use of blankets and other covering while doing so.
The Council approved the ordinance last May, with strong backing from Mayor Ashton Hayward and his staff. Attorney Alistair McKenzie told the panel that the backlash from the ordinance has extended well beyond the city limits.
Councilwoman Sherri Myers – one of the three who voted against it – proposed the amendment, changing Section 8-1-22 of the City Code – by removing the prohibition relating to sleeping on public lands on, or under blankets, newspapers, cardboard or other items.
Two members of the Council – P-C Wu and Megan Pratt – were absent, as was Mayor Hayward, who’s in Singapore.
About 20 people spoke to the Council prior to the vote, led off by homeless advocate Nathan Monk – who mounted an online petition against the ordinance. Following Monk were others – some homeless, some not – who expressed their support for what would be in effect legalizing blankets on city property.
After the speakers Councilman Charles Bare – who’s running for mayor – offered a second amendment to abolish all of Section 8-1-22. The 4-3 vote in favor of Bare’s amendment fell short of the required five votes needed for passage.
That original amendment then passed unanimously – as did a resolution to set up a task force to study the homeless issue and develop remedies. The task force will contain at least 15 members, who will submit their recommendations to the City Council sometime this fall.