Greensboro Approves New Panhandling Ordinance, Another Could Soon Replace It

Greensboro Approves New Panhandling Ordinance, Another Could Soon Replace It

6:04pm Jul 26, 2018
Some residents say aggressive panhandling is a problem on downtown Greensboro streets and in some parking garages. DAVID FORD/WFDD

Greensboro has a new panhandling ordinance. City Council is expected to revisit the controversial measure next month after advocates for the homeless say the measure is discriminatory.

The ordinance prohibits intentional touching, blocking a sidewalk and soliciting within 20 feet of an ATM, among other things.

People also can’t solicit using profanity or abusive language at such a level that an individual would fear bodily harm. 

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015 about regulating church signs has prompted cities like Greensboro to revisit their panhandling policies.

In April, City Council revoked its longtime panhandling ordinance and its separate solicitation ordinance. Panhandlers at that time were required to have permits and undergo criminal background checks.

Greensboro officials say the new changes were also spurred by complaints and 911 calls. They’re concerned about safety from what they call aggressive panhandling downtown and at local shopping entrances.

But several advocates for the poor and homeless say the new law is vague and could be unconstitutional.

City attorney Tom Carruthers says he hopes a second ordinance will address those concerns.

“The City of Greensboro has put in a lot of time, effort and substantial taxpayer money into this second ordinance, and we believe once it’s adopted, it can become a model not just for this city, but for other cities around the nation,” says Carruthers.

Greensboro City Council is expected to vote on the second ordinance during its August 21 meeting.

Carruthers says local leaders have learned a lot about the issue through the process. He says it’s something they plan to focus on in the future.

“We heard from people who are homeless in our community during public hearings. We’ve been given a better viewpoint and understanding of what these people are facing and perhaps how we can best serve their needs in a constructive way that leads them toward a path of self sufficiency, while minimizing the risk to the community,” says Carruthers.

*Follow WFDD’s Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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