Aldermen on Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday night decided to postpone action on a proposed rewrite of the city’s panhandling ordinance after it came in for sharp criticism by speakers who turned out for the meeting.
The proposed ordinance would have the potential to bar soliciting in any high-traffic area.
Jackie Prince, who said she’s sometimes had to ask for help, said most panhanders aren’t aggressive in any way and many of them desperately need money that they can’t get from government programs or social service agencies.
Alex Morgan said similar ordinances adopted in other communities have been struck down as a violation of First Amendment free speech rights.
Sue Loellback, manager of advocacy for Connections for the Homeless, said the ordinance would violate the state’s Bill of Rights for the Homeless.
Doug Sharp of Reclaim Evanston said the city shouldn’t criminalize poverty or fine people for their efforts to feed and clothe themselves.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said complaints about panhandling arise “at every ward meeting I have,” but none of the people who object to panhandlers at her meetings spoke at Monday’s Human Services session.
“This issue has come up more frequently since we have more downtown residents and more people on the street now,” Fiske said, adding “we have to find a way to look at this.”
Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said she had “huge reservations” about the proposed ordinance — suggesting its language for determining when panhandlers would be violating the law was too vague.
“Any downtown area I go in has some kind of panhandlers,” Fleming said, adding that if people are going to beg they have to do it in a space where there are people, so the ordinance’s ban on panhandling in “congested” areas would make successful panhandling impossible.
Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said she shared Fleming’s reservations about the ordinance.
“I think the whole proposed ordinance needs a lot of reworking,” Revelle said, “It seems overly broad and very subjective as to how it would be enforced.
“Where are these narrow sidewalks” the ordinance talks about, Revelle asked. “Who determines when a street feels congested?”
Committee members Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, weren’t present for Monday’s meeting.
Sweeping begging ban proposed (3/4/18)
Politics exempt from soliciting ban (2/13/13)
Door-to-door soliciting limits advance (1/30/13)