DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Among other things, during a meeting today the Public Safety Committee in Dallas will again try to address the problem of panhandling.
Dallas passed anti-panhandling ordinances years ago, but such laws have been challenged across the country.
Tristia Bauman, an attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, explained, “The reason for abandoning panhandling is they do not want to see visibly homeless people in public. Those laws have been struck down as unconstitutional under the first amendment.”
Bauman says the anti-panhandling ordinances basically ‘criminalize life-sustaining activities.’
But Dallas Councilman Philip Kingston believes the people out on street corners are not homeless, they’re professional beggars and he thinks it’s time to consider making panhandling a crime and punish those who give money to the people.
“What options do we have if any for either discouraging through civil fine or criminalizing the giving of money to panhandlers?” he asked. “The message needs to be from the city very, inequitably clear. It is not a good thing to give money to panhandlers. Don’t do it.”
The committee is expected to hear several proposals to deal with the issue, including one that would mirror what’s been done in places like Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Signs would be put up in panhandling hot spots directing people working the street corners to call 311 for help, and more emphasis would be put on donations to groups that help those who might find themselves on street corners asking drivers and passersby for cash.
Another potential plan was to have the city hire some panhandlers to pick up trash and work on landscaping projects – therefore providing them the income that they currently panhandle for. But Alan Sims, the head of Housing and Community Services, says professional panhandlers make good money and aren’t likely to work for the $10.37 an hour the city would offer.
“We thought we had the solution but the more facts that we got, we discovered that they guys are making anywhere from $40, to $70, to $80 an hour, so that’s just not gonna be the solution,” he said.
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