NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 23, 2008

Panhandling on public transportation can get you a year in jail in Medford, Ore.  Telling a lie while asking for money in Macon, Ga., is against the law.  In Minneapolis, begging in groups has been banned.

Cities across the United States are stepping up efforts to restrict panhandling, especially in downtown shopping areas:

  • In the past year, more than a dozen municipalities -- from Olympia, Wash., to Orlando -- have passed or strengthened such ordinances.
  • At least four more are close to adoption in Texas, Hawaii, North Carolina and Washington state.

Cities have enacted laws targeting the homeless for two decades, including bans on sleeping outdoors or loitering.  In the past few years, the focus has turned to panhandling restrictions, said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

That's partly because more cities are trying to redevelop their downtowns, Foscarinis said.

"No one likes to see destitute people in the city center. No one likes to walk down the street and be asked for change," she said.

Anti-panhandling laws passed in 2008:

  • Nashville -- The Metro Council voted Jan. 15 to outlaw aggressive panhandling; the ordinance also banned panhandling after dark or near ATMs, sidewalk cafes, business entrances, bus stops and schools.
  • Fayetteville, N.C. -- An ordinance passed Jan. 14 making it illegal to panhandle anywhere in the city after dark.
  • St. Petersburg, Fla. -- An ordinance passed Jan. 10 that creates a "no begging zone" near downtown's popular tourist destinations; existing ordinances ban panhandling at night and near bus stops and ATMs.

Source: Tracy Loew, "Cities crack down on panhandling," USA Today, January 23, 2008.

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