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.

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.

Doug Sharp of Reclaim Evanston said the city shouldn’t criminalize poverty or fine people for their efforts to feed and clothe themselves.

Judy Fiske.

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.”

Cicely Fleming.

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.

Eleanor Revelle.

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.

Related stories

Sweeping begging ban proposed (3/4/18)

Downtown residents renew panhandling complaints (2/2/16)

Some downtown want panhandling banned (9/4/13)

Politics exempt from soliciting ban (2/13/13)

Door-to-door soliciting limits advance (1/30/13)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. I guess the regulars get to stay…
    Here I was looking forward to not having to see my regulars on my walk to and from work, but it seems that’s not the case.
    I won’t get to miss:
    -The people waiting for the drug dealer in front of the Chef Station awning on Maple on the Metra ramp at all hours. Sometimes also drinking.
    -“Can I have a dollar for a sandwich” lady sitting on the bus stop bench on Davis, who rocks an iPhone X.
    -crazy lady without shoes having a massive discussion with herself on same bench.
    -mumbly “can you help a homeless person” in the doorway of Ace after they close.
    -ritual cup shaker guy waiting for the bus at DavisPantry.
    -failed CTA-worker guy with a walker, who talks to you like he’s simple-minded, but isn’t in truth. Who then says “fuck you faggot” if you tell him no when he asks you for money.
    -“the charismatic asshole” who will beg and follow you around harrassing you, even after you say no, who is usually so drunk and high that he doesn’t recognize that he begged you for money as you walked into the store and will ask again aggressively as you leave. Later you will see him walking with a lady fighting or on the 97 bus with her, fighting.
    -white junkie homeless couple, seen the woman punch a cop while being arrested.
    -dreadlocks “buy my artwork prints”, always with a joint in hand when not begging.
    -GTA champion in front of CVS, man that guy is good at playing GTA.
    -parking lot doorman at by the movie theater.
    -Captain Free-mags and his great display of CS magazines in front of Bennisons (and the mess after he leaves), let alone the drunken shouting matches he gets into with his lady.
    -the Metra station General Store lady

    Thank goodness they get to stay.

    1. Good descriptions
      I can picture all but two or three of them based on your accounts. They add so much richness and vibrancy to the community!

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