From Spare Change to ‘Real Change’: New Initiative To Help Panhandlers

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (May 12, 2014)– One day before a proposed panhandling ordinance will go before the City Commission, community leaders have unveiled a new initiative to help the people behind the problem.

Real Change Grand Rapids is a campaign being launched to educate the public about a “better way to give”. Organizers are asking people to donate to social services agencies and in special donation jars that will be placed around the area to create a “community fund”.

“We see this as a community issue that requires a community response,” said Kate O’Keefe, Program Director for the Heartside Neighborhood Collaboration Project. “This community fund helps people in need. Organizations like Degage, Mel Trotter, Heartside Ministry use this fund… If you give $1 dollar to one of the donation jars it can help buy someone a meal, $2 dollars gives someone a locker to keep their belongings in and keep them safe.”

O’Keefe said the campaign is meant to complement the proposed ordinance by providing education along with enforcement.

Panhandling has increased in West Michigan since 2012, when a federal judge ruled panhandling is protected as a First Amendment right. The ruling was upheld by an Appeals Court the following year.

“Therefore, no law can completely ban [panhandling], such a law would be unconstitutional,” explained Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish. “Once the Sixth Circuit issued its ruling, then the city was able to start looking at what the city could do with its own set of ordinances.”

The proposed panhandling ordinance, modeled after a similar ordinance in Kentwood, would restrict where and when panhandling can occur. Mish said the activity would not be allowed within 15 feet of an ATM or bus stop. It would also be prohibited on a public bus.

Mish added curbside panhandling, soliciting the driver or passenger in a vehicle on a public road, would also become a criminal misdemeanor.

 

1 Comment

  • guesty

    Your cities and state are not the only locales for these pesky panhandlers!
    They are everywhere and it has been known for sometime that there is a ring regarding these panhandlers!
    Furthermore, These panhandlers are getting more and more aggressive when wanting to take YOUR $$$$!
    They are by no means “needy”
    It is common and has been tracked by other investigative reporters that the freeloaders to rake in anywhere from 200.00 a day to more than a thousand dollars on a good day! TAX FREE!
    think about that when you are giving to these “people” and they are taking the money you have to pay taxes on!
    Most are not dressed too shabby, And can afford to smoke- So they are not doing to badly! If they can smoke, They can afford food!!!!!
    Its your money, But dont feel too glorious when donating to these slobs- They laugh after you give
    them your hard earned money!
    And no tax man cometh for them!

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