Some downtown Evanston residents at a ward meeting Tuesday night renewed complaints about panhandlers — unaware that their hopes of decisive action had probably been dashed just the day before.

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the City of Springfield challenging a ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that threw out as a violation of First Amendment Free Speech rights an ordinance banning panhandling in the Illinois capital’s historic district.

The Springfield ordinance barred making a request an immediate donation, while permitting requests that money be given some time in the future.

In tossing the Springfield ordinance, the appeals court relied on a 2015 Supreme Court decision rejecting an ordinance in Gilbert, Arizona, that imposed different regulations on signs based on their content.

Evanston City Attorney Grant Farrar had delayed any revisions to Evanston’s panhandling ordinance while awaiting a final disposition of the Springfield case.

Evanston’s current ordinance bans so-called aggressive panhandling, in which a beggar follows his target or blocks the path of a passerby. It also bars panhandling at cash machines, bus stops and sidewalk cafes, among other locations.

But unlike the Springfield ordinance it does not bar the request for an immediate contribution.

At the ward meeting, held at the Evanston Public Library, Downtown Evanston Executive Director Annie Coakley said “there’s been an uptick in panhandling in the last several months” which appeared to be related to reductions in state funding for at-risk populations.

Coakley said she’s been working to develop educational campaigns that would encourage students and other residents to contribute to organizations that help the homeless rather than giving to panhandlres.

“A lot of our panhandlers are not homeless,” Coakley said, “and they’re doing quite well making money here.”

Coakley has proposed placing obsolete parking meters with signs encouraging donations on downtown streets as a way to give people an opportunity to show they care without giving money to beggars.

But Hank Goldman, of 807 Davis St., a Downtown Evanston board member, derided that idea saying “putting out gumball machines” wouldn’t solve the problem.

“What we need is a new ordinance,” Goldman said, “That’s the only way we’re going to stop it.”

Goldman claimed that a new ordinance in Berkeley, California, bars people from sitting, standing or lying around “which has basically done away with panhandling in Berkeley.”

However, the Berkeley ordinance, which was adopted in December during a raucous City Council meeting at which opponents shouted “shame, shame” at council members, has yet to take effect.

That’s because the city has yet to set up storage lockers in which the homeless could keep their belongings, which were part of the plan. Officials now estimate the locker program could end up costing the city $350,000 a year to run.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Panhandling in restaurants
    It is fairly common for panhandlers to ask for money inside restaurants and even in washing rooms when a customer enters the washroom. Many times these are the same people and are known to the managers and told repeatedly not to return.
    Several times there have been high school aged solicitors saying they represent the high school, sports league or some other cause.
    One manager told me he hesitates to call the police because [in his opinion—true or not] that the police see the staff as being a nuisance and/or the police act resentful to having been called. I do know a policeman came into one restaurant and looked around and left. Minutes later I found an expensive looking scarf left near where the police were looking. The manager said they would not call the police for the reasons I gave. So I had to go out and find a policeman [which I was able to].
    At a minimum staff should be assured by the police that it is their right to call the police and they will not [in their terms] “get in trouble” for doing so.

    1. Panhandling also an issue on Main Street

      Within the Main Street/Chicago Avenue Area panhandling is most often associated with individuals residing in near by Albany House. In many instances, in the area, there are female panhandlers who are soliciting for the purpose of buying drugs in either near by Public Parking Lot #9; in the 900 block of Elmwood alley or Nichol Park. Frequently, some female panhandlers are publicly associated with male individuals who are wearing hoods, dark glasses and standing near bye an active panhandlers. Main Street panhandler issues are often closely associated with Albany House tenants and is episodic. John Barfield

      1. What are you talking about?

        I cannot locate a "Public Parking Lot #9" nor a "Nichol Park" on the Evanston City website (  If you are somehow trying to get assistance in cleaning up these problems, at least correctly identify the problem areas.  How about reclaiming Grey Park?  It is a beautiful park that apparantly belongs to the bums and their second hand smoke.

  2. Blame the Mild Winter & An Outside of the Box Solution

    Consider: Increased panhandling might just be one more consequence of global warming.

    Hyperbole aside, the solution is not to sustain a marketplace for panhandling: i.e., don’t be an enabler. As mentioned in the article above, if you feel guilty (as I often do) for passing a panhandler by, consider contributing to a charitable organization for homelessness.

    And remember: Unless the panhandler is selling "Streetwise," you are not likely helping the individual in question “get back on their feet.”

    Alternately, Evanstonians might consider flooding the “market” by spending their free time as panhandlers themselves. If the Faux-Panhandlers of Evanston made it clear that the proceeds from their begging went to some charitable foundation for the homeless, then the “legit” panhandlers would perhaps be driven back to Chicago. This would require a sustained effort on behalf of the Faux-Panhandlers of Evanston, of course. If this (admittedly) cockamamie proposal actually came to fruition, it would be an community building and strengthening exercise that would likely attract national attention.

  3. Panhandlng

    Bill,  thanks for the clarification on the proposed Berkely ordinance.  Also, as a clarification, I don't think this proposal bans panhandling altogether, just makes it harder to accomplish.  We certainly have to do something to stem the tide of ever increasing panhandlers in our city.

    1. A partial solution [food for really needy] Chicago tried
      I’m probably off on some of the details, but—
      15-20 years ago Chicago churches and other groups produced ‘coupons’ that ‘panhandlers’ could use at some fast food and possible other places.
      It did not seem to work or last long. As far as I know Evanston never tried it.
      Possible reasons it did not work:
      Too easy to copy the coupons—more true than ever
      Some panhandlers sold them at a discount to raise money for liquor, drugs, etc.
      Some Chicago people I know said when they tried giving them to those who said they needed food, the coupons were refused. Apparently they wanted money for liquor, drugs, etc.

      I’ve offered to buy a burger, etc. for those saying they need food, only to be sworn at and they walk away. I saw one man offer to buy food for a panhandler at White Hen, and the panhandler was asking for the most expensive foods and bottled water—not exactly sustenance foods.
      I’ve actually seen panhandlers laugh at those who gave them money, when they walked away; and use the same story on the next person who comes by. Mostly it seems it is students who give the money.

      After seeing several ‘cons’ most people become suspicious of all panhandlers.

      1. Harassment? Fraud?
        I understand why people don’t want to be harassed on the street (or in restaurants) by people asking for handouts. I understand why people don’t want to be scammed by people claiming to raise money for worthy causes which are fraudulent. What I don’t understand is: 1) Why ordinances about harassment or fraud don’t cover these situations and 2) why giving money to people who aren’t “genuinely homeless” is a problem. I find it very disturbing that the people of Evanston, many (most?) of whom have good homes and adequate incomes resent being asked for a buck from someone on the street. Really? Ok, I may not want to enable someone’s addiction problem, but at the same time, I find the attitude towards panhandlers expressed on this page very unfortunate. Whether it is providing coupons or gift cards, expanding the Connections for the Homeless programs, or other ideas, I think it behooves the residents of Evanston to show some empathy for people less fortunate than themselves. I don’t believe anyone becomes a panhandler by choice, if there are other options available.

        1. Gift cards are often sold for

          Gift cards are often sold for cash.  And I have seen a few "panhandlers" downtown.
          There is a young couple who are clearly herion addicts and are generally so high they cant keep their eyes open for more then a minute.  Drug addiction is a whole other issue but I personally choose to volunteer as I see first hand where my time or money is going.  I wont give money on the street for safety reason either.  Pull my wallet out in front of a drug addict on a down slide?  No thanks.

        2. Evanston Homelessness
          Lisa G., thank you for your compassion and understanding of people in a less fortunate situation than most. As a person that has asked for donations, I would like to state that donating to Connections for the Homeless and other agencies that are entrusted to help those of us that are homeless, you are not even ensured that they will be using the money for the original purpose intended. If they had been doing that, you would not have many people out on the street asking for donations. While you do have to use common sense in who you are donating to, and what for, some people do have a legitimate need for asking for money donations. The churches in Evanston have done in incredible job in making sure that we are fed seven days a week, at least one meal a day, but it is mostly small meals, but something is always better than nothing, and I am very blessed and thankful for that. But we are human beings, and we need money for public transportation, and if we get sick, we cannot afford over the counter medicines if we have no money whatsoever. I have literally not been able to afford something that was $1.00 one day, and that and the lack of assistance from Connections for the Homeless and the City of Evanston is what drove me to get out and ask people for donations directly. Did I ever invision myself doing that? No. Do I want to be doing that? Definitely not.

          One person commented, if they are not selling Streetwise, then do not donate to them. Well, most of the guys selling Streetwise do have homes, and they are not homeless. I am truly a homeless person, that does not have a roof over my head, does not have a bed to sleep in at night, does not have a vehicle, and who is not being assisted by anyone. Do you know what it takes to go from being a middle-class, self-sustaining person, to homeless, loosing absolutely EVERYTHING that you ever worked for your whole entire like, to depending on the kindness of strangers? It is not easy. But, with that said, I have done it, and has helped me immensely, psychologically, physically, and monetarily. It gave me blessings, hope, and afforded me to get off the street at least for a day or two to find warmth and a good hot shower. If that upsets you to help someone in that way, then I say don’t give, and don’t ever give. God says to be a cheerful giver, and when you have done to the least of these, then you have done this unto me. If you do not feel compassion for others and only feel that you should give to agencies that are supposedly helping us, then that is your right to do so, and I feel that is what you should do, but don’t make it illegal to ask for help when you truly and desperately need it. You are blessed to have a job, you are blessed to have a home, you are blessed to have a bed, you are blessed to have your own food and to be able to cook it yourself. Why is your heart so hardened to those that do not have those things? I am curious about that. We are all one paycheck away from homelessness, and I am one that did not take that comment too seriously, and I am the one that used to give to others, and now I am on the receiving end.

          To all of those who have stopped to help me, to speak with me, and to go even further and ask how you can help, I would like to send a huge THANK YOU out to you! You have helped me through the storm immensely! The job market is opening up and I am looking forward to again being gainfully employed and for continued blessings. Your donations were not misused, and I was able to make little changes in my current life situation. I am formerly middle class and lost my job in the downturn of the economy, and have been unable to secure permanent employment, but have been working here and there. But I do look forward to getting out of the abyss of homlessness that, unless you have been there, you know absolutely nothing about it. Agencies do not help us like they should or like you entrust them to. So I propose creating an ad saying, do not give to agencies, because after they receive their paychecks, what is left over for us? And if they were helping us like their web sites say they do, then why are we all over looking for places to stay warm, and looking for a place where they are not mean and rude to us just because of our situation? Leslie, Head Librarian at the Library has taught her staff, by example, that they can treat us any way that they want to, and get laughter out of doing it. She has been rude, condescending, and her boss let’s her. No complaint is ever handled to back up the homeless person. Leslie, and her boss feel that they can treat you whatever way they please. But God sees all, and they are getting away with nothing. Speaking of the library, thank you to the couple that stopped by the library to donate handmade scarves and blankets to us. They were a husband and wife team, and they were so kind and generous to even think of us. We are thankful for your kindness. Again, if you ever donated anything to me, including conversation or your time, thank you and I wish continued blessing for you and your family, and for those of you who chose not to donate, I wish you the same. I have no hard feeling for you whatsoever, and I only wish that you did not have such harsh feelings for me and/or my situation.

          1. Need for definitions of homelessness
            Some of the numbers for the number of homeless in Evanston seem very high and hard to believe, and thus some people write the numbers off as hype.
            What do those who publish the numbers mean ? Living on the street ? Living in shelters ? Living with friends/relatives ?
            Long term or short term [e.g. more than a week or month] ? Came to Evanston [from Chicago?] because they thought more likely churches, shelters, charity would provide them more support [maybe 20 years ago even newspapers claimed homeless/poor came to Evanston since city gave benefits out from day one–true or not]? Homeless because of drugs, alcohol, criminal record preventing renting or even staying in a shelter ?

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