The crackdown on “aggressive panhandling” proposed by Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector this week is part of an apparent uptick nationwide in such prohibitions – according to a survey of 122 cities cited in a New York Times story in October.
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found there was a 7 percent increase in laws against begging or panhandling between 2009 and 2011, the Times reported.
“Our sense is that cities are responding to the increasing number of chronically or visibly homeless people due to the economic crisis,” the Center’s Heather Maria Johnson told the Times. “Rather than addressing the issue of homelessness, they are adapting measures that move homeless people out of downtowns, tourist areas or even out of a city.”
The article says case law on the issue has varied over the years, but that recent legal decisions have favored the homeless.
Harmless or a Hazard?
Spector’s bill would bar people from panhandling in medians, shoulders and in traffic.
A drive down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard today was impeded for what turned out to be a man in the shoulder in a wheelchair.
Cars turning right on W. Fayette Street had to go slowly and carefully around the man, who did not appear to be asking for anything and was just sitting in the chair, which was very nearly in the roadway.
Later, a man walking in the W. North Avenue median with a sign that said “Homeless, cold and hungry, please help” said he had heard about the proposal to make what he was doing illegal.
“I don’t get why they have to do that, I’m not hurting anyone,” he said. “I’m just down on my luck.”