Street Behavior laws: Chamber of Commerce Coalition on Street

Tom Boland (
Sat, 6 Jun 1998 13:27:54 -0700 (PDT)

     Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce


Homelessness has been a top concern of the Chamber's in recent years. The
Chamber, through its Public Policy Department, has stepped up its efforts
to reduce this burden on the city.

The Chamber organized a coalition of business, civic and community leaders
to raise awareness of the issue. This group carved out a distinction
between the truly needy homeless individuals and the shelter-resistant
street persons who, as studies show, commit a majority of quality-of-life
crimes in the city. The coalition has met with the governor, mayor,
district attorney, police officials, judicial leaders and service providers
to share its recommendations, which include:

*Arrest, prosecute and incarcerate street persons for criminal acts.

*Discontinue all unauthorized street feeding. Work with City officials to
find alternative locations to feed needy persons. Coordinate a campaign to
educate the public against unauthorized feeding and giving donations to

*Prohibit loitering on city streets and sidewalks.

*Arrest, prosecute and incarcerate for multiple violations anyone who is
engaged in aggressive panhandling.

City and state leaders have been receptive to our recommendations and a
productive dialogue among us continues.

Council President John Street recently introduced a bill to curb sidewalk
behavior. The bill has the support of 12 other members of Council and is
designed to address many of the quality of life concerns the Chamber has
raised. Among other things, the bill would prohibit on Center City

              Agressive panhandling
              Sitting, lying and sleeping
              Soliciting money
              Illegal vendors
              Posting signs
              Distributing handbills
              Bicycles, skateboards, roller skates and the like

A hearing on the bill is expected in Spring 1998.

During last year's Councilmanic term, Councilman Jim Kenney introduced two
bills designed to address street behavior. If approved, the bills would:

*Prohibit sleeping, sitting and lying on City sidewalks in the Center City
commercial district. *Prohibit aggressive panhandling, including
panhandling in close proximity to ATMs.

Similar legislation has been enacted in other cities and has withstood
legal challenge. The Chamber has led the charge in lobbying for these
bills. However, the political reality is that the bills face a tough
challenge in City Council. The Chamber will continue to lobby for this
legislation, in conjunction with the other efforts of its Coalition on
Street Persons.

While we are sending a message that the problems brought on by street
persons must be addressed, we are also reaching out to assist those truly
needy homeless individuals. The Chamber is working with area restaurants
and hotels, in conjunction with PhilAbundance, to streamline donations of
food to shelters. Not only will this action provide necessary help to needy
people, but it will also help to alleviate the problem of unauthorized
street feeding.

The Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association has taken the lead on homeless
outreach by launching a monthly amenities drive. Each month 15 area hotels
will contribute toiletries, linens and other amenities to the People's
Emergency Center. We anticipate other outreach efforts will begin on the
heels of these.

The Chamber and its Coalition on Street Persons will continue to work with
the public and non-profits communities on addressing this issue.

The Chamber is working with other civic leaders to establish a designated
court to adjudicate quality-of-life crimes. Modeled after the successful
Midtown Community Court in New York City's Times Square Business
Improvement District, this court would offer same-day trials and
sentencing, in most cases community service. The court would also offer
mandatory drug testing and an array of treatment programs. New York's
Midtown Community Court has been identified as a key factor in the marked
decrease in quality-of-life crimes in midtown Manhatten.

The Pew Foundation issued a $65,000 matching grant and money is being
raised in the business community for an additional $65,000. That budget
will allow for the appointment of a full-time coordinator to implement
recommendations for a Community Court in Philadelphia.


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