[Hpn] City Council restricts panhandling

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Tue, 15 Jan 2008 18:22:22 -0500


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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

http://www.fayobserver.com/article?id=3D283074

Fayetteville City Council restricts panhandling


By Andrew Barksdale
Staff writer
Begging for spare change, food or employment on highway medians, at =
public parks or the city center is now a crime punishable by up to $500.

The Fayetteville City Council unanimously adopted the crackdown Monday, =
following through with a pledge that council members made last month =
when they signed onto a 15-point plan of action in the first 100 days of =
their terms.

The council's biggest gripe has been people who roam concrete medians on =
busy roads, such as Skibo, and approach stopped cars at intersections, =
often stepping into the roadway.

Councilman D.J. Haire said the changes would protect the panhandlers and =
people who are solicited.

The changes also prohibit soliciting anywhere after dark, or near ATMs, =
at bus stops or in lines where people are waiting to enter a business.

"We are placing restrictions on how panhandling is handled in our city," =
City Attorney Karen McDonald said.

The city banned begging in a large section of downtown, she said, =
because research shows panhandling makes people feel uncomfortable and =
hinders revitalization efforts.

The ban will apply to all forms of solicitation, including by school and =
church groups, but only on public property. People can still continue to =
solicit on private property with the owner's permission, McDonald said.

Some of the changes didn't sit well with Tom Lambeth, the 51-year-old =
manager of the City Rescue Mission, which runs a women's shelter on Adam =
Street and offers meals to the public three times a day.

"Is it all right for a politician to ask for money for his campaign?" =
Lambeth asked the council.

Or how about a nonprofit group at a Wal-Mart asking for a donation, he =
asked.

Homeless people who politely ask for spare change should be treated no =
differently, Lambeth said. Some have mental illnesses or are veterans =
just trying to scrape by, he said.

"It's not a business for them," he said. "It's a way of life."

Lambeth was the only person to speak against some of the panhandling =
prohibitions during a public comment period at the start of Monday's =
meeting. The council did not hold a public hearing on the matter.

Until a fire last year damaged a building, the Rescue Mission ran a =
16-bed men's shelter on North Cool Spring Street - in the downtown area =
where panhandling has been restricted.

Lambeth said banning panhandling in public parks, in the downtown or =
after dark is unfairly broad. Banning the practice elsewhere, including =
at ATMs or on highway medians, makes sense, he said.

Mark Ledger, a Fayetteville Planning Commission member, also spoke. He =
served on a task force that helped draft the crackdown.

"I think it's a valuable and practical tool that law enforcement will be =
able to enforce fairly and reasonably," Ledger said.

McDonald said the ordinance amendments were just a first step. The city =
now will start a public information campaign, urging people to give to =
soup kitchens and other worthy causes. City officials will continue to =
find ways to reduce the homeless problem, she said.

Police and advocates have estimated that on any given day, 1,000 people =
are homeless in the community. The city has fewer than 100 beds at =
various shelters. Officials are planning to reopen the Hope Center on =
Person Street, leasing it for free to an agency that has yet to be =
identified.

Staff writer Andrew Barksdale can be reached at =
barksdalea@fayobserver.com or 486-3565.
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<DIV>Tuesday, January 15, 2008</DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><A=20
href=3D"http://www.fayobserver.com/article?id=3D283074">http://www.fayobs=
erver.com/article?id=3D283074</A></FONT><BR></DIV>
<DIV class=3Dfont-story_headline-24>Fayetteville City Council restricts=20
panhandling</DIV>
<DIV><BR></DIV>
<DIV class=3Dfont-story_byline>By Andrew Barksdale<BR>Staff writer</DIV>
<P>Begging for spare change, food or employment on highway medians, at =
public=20
parks or the city center is now a crime punishable by up to $500.</P>
<P>The Fayetteville City Council unanimously adopted the crackdown =
Monday,=20
following through with a pledge that council members made last month =
when they=20
signed onto a 15-point plan of action in the first 100 days of their =
terms.</P>
<P>The council=92s biggest gripe has been people who roam concrete =
medians on busy=20
roads, such as Skibo, and approach stopped cars at intersections, often =
stepping=20
into the roadway.</P>
<P>Councilman D.J. Haire said the changes would protect the panhandlers =
and=20
people who are solicited.</P>
<P>The changes also prohibit soliciting anywhere after dark, or near =
ATMs, at=20
bus stops or in lines where people are waiting to enter a business.</P>
<P>=93We are placing restrictions on how panhandling is handled in our =
city,=94 City=20
Attorney Karen McDonald said.</P>
<P>The city banned begging in a large section of downtown, she said, =
because=20
research shows panhandling makes people feel uncomfortable and hinders=20
revitalization efforts.</P>
<P>The ban will apply to all forms of solicitation, including by school =
and=20
church groups, but only on public property. People can still continue to =
solicit=20
on private property with the owner=92s permission, McDonald said.</P>
<P>Some of the changes didn=92t sit well with Tom Lambeth, the =
51-year-old manager=20
of the City Rescue Mission, which runs a women=92s shelter on Adam =
Street and=20
offers meals to the public three times a day.</P>
<P>=93Is it all right for a politician to ask for money for his =
campaign?=94 Lambeth=20
asked the council.</P>
<P>Or how about a nonprofit group at a Wal-Mart asking for a donation, =
he=20
asked.</P>
<P>Homeless people who politely ask for spare change should be treated =
no=20
differently, Lambeth said. Some have mental illnesses or are veterans =
just=20
trying to scrape by, he said.</P>
<P>=93It=92s not a business for them,=94 he said. =93It=92s a way of =
life.=94</P>
<P>Lambeth was the only person to speak against some of the panhandling=20
prohibitions during a public comment period at the start of Monday=92s =
meeting.=20
The council did not hold a public hearing on the matter.</P>
<P>Until a fire last year damaged a building, the Rescue Mission ran a =
16-bed=20
men=92s shelter on North Cool Spring Street =97 in the downtown area =
where=20
panhandling has been restricted.</P>
<P>Lambeth said banning panhandling in public parks, in the downtown or =
after=20
dark is unfairly broad. Banning the practice elsewhere, including at =
ATMs or on=20
highway medians, makes sense, he said.</P>
<P>Mark Ledger, a Fayetteville Planning Commission member, also spoke. =
He served=20
on a task force that helped draft the crackdown.</P>
<P>=93I think it=92s a valuable and practical tool that law enforcement =
will be able=20
to enforce fairly and reasonably,=94 Ledger said.</P>
<P>McDonald said the ordinance amendments were just a first step. The =
city now=20
will start a public information campaign, urging people to give to soup =
kitchens=20
and other worthy causes. City officials will continue to find ways to =
reduce the=20
homeless problem, she said.</P>
<P>Police and advocates have estimated that on any given day, 1,000 =
people are=20
homeless in the community. The city has fewer than 100 beds at various =
shelters.=20
Officials are planning to reopen the Hope Center on Person Street, =
leasing it=20
for free to an agency that has yet to be identified.</P>
<DIV><EM>Staff writer Andrew Barksdale can be reached at=20
barksdalea@fayobserver.com or 486-3565.</EM></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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