Advocates File Suit Against Greensboro's New Panhandling Law

Advocates File Suit Against Greensboro's New Panhandling Law

3:21pm Aug 08, 2018
Downtown Greensboro. DAVID FORD/WFDD

Advocates for the homeless are taking the City of Greensboro to court over a recently-passed ordinance that limits panhandling.

The plaintiffs in the suit, who are represented by the ACLU of North Carolina and others, say the measure is unconstitutional, violating the first amendment and the equal protection clause.

According to court documents, those plaintiffs are three Greensboro residents who have experienced homelessness and panhandled themselves.

The measure in question has been hotly debated in Greensboro, and the ordinance against “aggressive solicitation” was passed in late July by a 5-4 vote.

Marcus Hyde with the Homeless Union of Greensboro says laws like this come about because downtown business districts want to push the problem out of sight.

“Homelessness is a federal problem and deserves a federal response, but gets played out at a local level," Hyde says. "So, local municipalities are tired of this crisis and bow down to business pressure and pass laws that violate people’s rights.”

For its part, the City of Greensboro has cited safety concerns due to aggressive panhandlers in green lighting the measure.

The city’s attorney, Tom Carruthers, has said a second ordinance is in the works that aims to address the constitutional concerns previously raised by homeless advocates.

The Greensboro City Council is expected to vote on that ordinance later this month.

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