BALTIMORE - A Baltimore City Councilwoman is scaling back her proposal to make it tougher for panhandlers to ask for your cash.
On Monday, about a dozen protestors gathered outside City Hall, chanting, “Housing first, housing first.” They say panhandlers are out of options – on the street because they have nowhere else to go.
Tony Simmons has lived at the city's overflow shelter, for two years.
“Five, 10 bucks they make on the corner, they may have to eat off that because if you don't make it into a shelter overnight because they're crowded, how are you going to feed yourself,” he said.
But Councilwoman Rikki Spector (D-5 th) says the city's panhandling law needs to be strengthened, because in many cases she says the men and woman asking for money on the street have refused attempts by the city to help them.
“A lot of them turn it down they don't want to be told when to come in when to go out, they need to take a shower. They want the freedom to do what they want, and that's ok, if you're not imposing on somebody else's quality of life,” she said.
The councilwoman's initial plan would have banned panhandling within 10 feet of all public buildings in the city. That would have, in effect, outlawed the activity in Baltimore.
The new plan focuses on restaurants with outdoor seating. It would be illegal to ask for money anywhere within 10 feet of them.
“When panhandlers approach them, the experiences have been they spit in their food, the put dog dirt on their table. It's not appropriate,” Councilwoman Spector said.
The ACLU has spoken out against the proposed change, saying it violates panhandlers’ freedom of speech.
The protestors want the city to focus on the underlying problems instead of the symptom.
“We do believe you can get rid of panhandling, throw it away. But house people. You just can't house us in the penitentiary,” Simmons said.
The law would also ban panhandling within five feet of parking meters.
Councilwoman Spector said it would be back before the council at its next meeting, on November 18.
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