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Sweeping begging ban proposed

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Evanston’s Human Services Committee is scheduled Monday to review a total rewrite of the city’s panhandling ordinance that would potentially bar soliciting in any high-traffic area.

The draft ordinance was prepared by the city’s legal staff in response to a request from Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward.

It would bar soliciting contributions in “areas within a designated commercial or historic district in which a high volume of pedestrian traffic or narrow sidewalks and streets give a reasonable person a justified, reasonable concern about their personal security due to congestion and close proximity to others.”

It would also bar soliciting in any other area in which “congestion” could create security concerns.


If Girl Scouts selling cookies, like these outside Sherman Plaza this morning, were considered to be seeking donations, even they might run afoul of the proposed restrictions on charitable solicitations.

The ordinance provides no objective standards for judging what constitutes high traffic, narrow sidewalks or congestion. Nor does it provide a reason for singling out historic districts, but excluding other residential areas, from the special protection.

Given that soliciting only makes economic sense where there is a substantial volume of passersby, the wording of the ordinance would appear to put any rational begger in constant legal peril.

The new restrictions would apply to any soliciting activity — not just so-called aggressive panhandling.

Aggressive panhandling would continue to be banned throughout the city, although the new ordinance redrafts the list of actions considered to constitute such behavior.


ATMs would remain off limits to panhandlers.

The ordinance would also:

  • Maintain an existing ban on soliciting near bank entrances or ATM machines.
  • Expand a ban on soliciting at sidewalk cafes to a zone within 20 feet of the cafes.
  • Loosen a complete ban on soliciting at bus stops and transportation facilities to apply only to congested areas.
  • Impose a new ban on soliciting in or within 20 feet of a public parking garage at night, but only when a reasonable individual would have safety concerns.
  • Create a new ban on soliciting within 20 feet of access points to any building public events venue, public accommodation or commercial business if there’s a reasonable safety concern.

However the ordinance as drafted would — perhaps inadvertently — repeal the city’s existing restrictions on door-to-door soliciting.

The ordinance defines the prohibited activities to include charitable and political solicitations as well as begging for personal contributions.

Related documents

The existing Panhandling and Soliciting section of the city code. The proposed new ordinance (starts at page 41 of the packet).

Related stories

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)

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