Posted June 27, 2018
On the issue of homelessness, I have worked with agencies like the Escarosa Homeless Coalition with John Johnson. He would be the first to tell you that the panhandlers are not the homeless but people willing to take advantage of an issue for their personal gain. The Homeless Coalition was behind the better way to give campaign that the Leadership Pensacola class of 2016 supported with decorated parking meters for people to place change that supports agencies who care for the truly homeless.
I think the city, Mayor, and Council, need to work with these agencies and partner jurisdictions, like Escambia County, to continue to seek and address ways to care for the homeless. At the same time, we do need to clean up parks that have become easy places to encourage people to live. No one wants they neighborhood and park to become an unsanitary living place. Additionally, leaving people to live in parks without treatment is not helping them either. There is no easy answer here but I can assure you with work and effort we can make it better for everyone, citizens and the homeless.
As for the Panhandlers, this is really unlicensed commerce that we have tolerated. I have experience with this on Davis Hwy, and we were successful in preventing until recent court rulings took the teeth out of our ordinance. Still, there are ways we can address and prevent, and I think we owe the public the effort to find. Whether a license to use for spaces on public sidewalks or using existing roadway laws to address medians, we can make an effort to stop tolerating unlicensed commerce. However, like homelessness, this will require concerted and consistent effort.
Thank you for the question. This is not an easy answer. I think it is important that we compassionately work with those true homeless to find ways for treatment and support. At the same time, we will need to be more creative and consistent to prevent unlicensed commerce. Both will require work and diligence and we will need a leader who exemplifies that effort.