Fort Lauderdale's Anti-Panhandling Scheme Gets Attention From National Lawyers' Guild

Categories: Broward News
Thumbnail image for feeding-homeless.jpg
A criminal?
There's a no-panhandling zone in downtown Miami, and Fort Lauderdale currently prohibits asking for change along the beach. But the Fort Lauderdale City Commission is considering some tough new regulations that would effectively ban panhandling in the entire downtown area. That's in addition to a proposed $26,000 campaign to tell people not to give money to beggars.

As expected, Mayor Jack Seiler -- who wants to keep hungry homeless people from gathering in Stranahan Park and was on his hands and knees planting shrubs there last month, perhaps to supplant these wayward souls -- supports the ban. "At the end of the day, it's a quality-of-life issue for residents, visitors, and even the individual out in the streets," the mayor told the Palm Beach Post.

Others are sounding less chipper about the plan. The National Lawyers' Guild, which frequently stands up for the homeless and organizations that serve them (like Food Not Bombs), sent out a statement condemning the ordinance. "Instead of seeking to address the issue of homelessness by offering housing or other forms of public assistance, the City of Fort Lauderdale seeks to simply force homeless residents out by criminalizing their very means of survival," the group says.

The local effort is being led by Mara Shlackman, an attorney and vice president of the guild's South Florida chapter. The group explains:

The ordinance would effectively prohibit anyone from asking for donations nearly anywhere in the downtown area, as it forbids panhandling within 15 feet of a bus, bus stop, sidewalk cafe, parking lot or garage, parking pay station, park, ATM, building, or private property. This covers nearly the entire downtown Fort Lauderdale area, effecting an unconstitutional infringement on residents' First Amendment right to ask for money for their own survival. In addition, the ordinance would prohibit any charitable organization, such as the Salvation Army or United Way, from soliciting donations nearly anywhere in the downtown area.

That outcry surely won't be good press for the City Commission as it considers how to implement the ordinance, and the guild's statement has already garnered some attention on the Huffington Post.

Violators of the new ordinance would have to pay a $500 fine and/or spend 60 days in jail. Wonder which one would be more feasible for homeless people.

Here's the list of where panhandling would be prohibited:

Bus stops or any public transportation facility.

Public transportation vehicle.

Area within 15 feet, in any direction, of a sidewalk café.

Parking lot, parking garage, or parking pay station owned or operated by the city.

Park owned or operated by the city.

Area within 15 feet, in any direction, of an automatic teller machine or entrance/exit of a commercial or city building.

Private property, unless the panhandler has permission from the owner of such property.

This is sure to spark some protests from local "people deserve to be able to eat" types, so stay tuned as the city tries to deal with an increasingly uncomfortable situation.

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13 comments
DrPa Ba
DrPa Ba

 "'...criminalizing their very means of survival.'?"

They act as if the "homeless" (if these panhandlers ARE even homeless) are not human - like squirrels that need to forage for nuts to survive.  Is everyone here going to assume that these beggars have tried just as hard as everyone else to get at least a minimum-wage job?

Here's an interesting article:http://www.komonews.com/news/l...

If it pays to beg, then there will be beggars.  Plain and simple.

kathymitro
kathymitro

 The measure of the greatness of any nation is

in how the poorest of that nation are

treated.The poor are truly people in crisis. By

taking away means after means of survival for

people that are in a desperate situation, we

are only making the situation worse. Some

make think to put these people out of one's

sight improves their own life but in fact it

cannot. Only actions taken in love not fear can

improve the quality of life for everyone. We

must look to decriminalize poverty and not to

shoulder the poor with more and more

decreasing quality of life. We must let those

that want to share food with love, to people

that need love and food be shared with them

share it. To  embrace this sharing  as a good

thing not a criminal action as it is now viewed .

You cannot cut government  aid spending to

the hungry, then declare it a criminal action to

share food with the hungry, for those with the

resources to provide it and then tell this

people that  they cannot ask for money for

food when they are starving. What you are

offering these people is equivalent to a death

sentence. and I can assure cutting off every

means of survival for any individual can only

lead to bad never good. Reach out your hand to

help up, not to crush down

kathymitro
kathymitro

The measure of the greatness of any nation is in how the poorest of that nation are treated.The poor are truly people in crisis. By taking away means after means of survival for people that are in a desperate situation, we are only making the situation worse. Some make think to put these people out of one's sight improves their own life but in fact it cannot. Only actions taken in love not fear can improve the quality of life for everyone. We must look to decriminalize poverty and not to shoulder the poor with more and more decreasing quality of life. We must let those that want to share food with love, to people that need love and food be shared with them, share it. To  embrace this sharing  as a good thing not a criminal action as it is now viewed . You cannot cut government food aid to the hungry, then declare it a criminal action to share food with the hungry, for those with the resources to provide it and then tell this people that  they cannot ask for money for food when they are starving. What you are offering these people is equivalent to a death sentence. and I can assure cutting off every means of survival for any individual can only lead to bad never good. Reach out your hand to help up, not to crush down

Tracysway
Tracysway

Good for Fort Lauderdale. I'm tired of being harassed for change at every street corner. If the Lawyers guild is so concerned with homelessness, perhaps they could set up a charity or soup kitchen instead of trying to pretend like they really care. They'd be the first ones to close thier car window on a panhandler.

kathymitro
kathymitro

  People that have no money and no food either need food or money to buy food.It is time stop all this silliness. People are hungry and starving in the United States. We are throwing away 1/3 of all food produced each day.The ONLY answer to the problem of eradicating hunger and circumventing current food sharing restrictions and anti-panhandling for money to buy food , popping up in each small community, is federally mandated laws making food donation not a choice but a requirement. This mandatory food donation will go hand in hand with mandatory food give out stations which will be manned with the same people sharing food legally and illegally now. This takes it from a maybe I will bother with the trouble of donating it, and easing great hunger,to, it is against the law for me not to donate it and eradicate all hunger in the United StatesPlease help us put this mandatory donation laws in place. Sign the petiton to put these laws in place at change.org http://www.change.org/petition...

guest
guest

Mara Shlackman, do the homeless trample your yard? do they bother you every time you step out the door? do they scare your children when you walk down the street? Homelessness in a serious problem and needs to be addressed but letting them gather in the middle of the business district and bother people trying to make there way isn't the proper way. I couldn't help but notice our Governor cut funding to Camillis house in Miami thats a good starth 

Thefreelifelover
Thefreelifelover

I think its really a shame these days when a group like Food not Bombs are being considered a subversive group for trying to help feed hungry and often homeless people.

JOEYPAD
JOEYPAD

maybe these scumbags lawyers would like theses people begging in their neighbor hoods ..lets try it and see how long these do good ahos last before they want them out

kathymitro
kathymitro

 Each and every time another means of survival is taken away from an individual in severe crisis such as the hungry and homeless the world becomes a not so pretty place. The only true means to make the world the beautiful place you long for, is to make things easier for the insecure . You speak of more charity and soup kitchens as an easy solution, but 99% of the people are not seeing the many laws springing up that make the giving of food to these starving individuals a criminal action,both on the part of the giver and on the part of the receiver.Government is cutting aid to people in poverty, individuals are being arrested and fined for giving food from their own resources, now you want to tell them they have no food, no money to buy food and that are not allowed to ask for money to survive. What you are imposing upon them with this is a death sentence. I can tell you a person starving with no legal means to access food for himself and his children  must do what he has to do to survive.. Let everyone feed everyone in any manner available to them. When you do this you will act as lover of humanity You will by reaching out with compassion, actually end people harassing you for food for money. Work to support rescinding the laws that criminalize poverty. Try to feel as one feels who is in crisis and reach out your hand not to swat them down but to pull them up. This will make the beautiful safe world you long for.

nanook5
nanook5

as a member of the sfl national lawyers guild who shares food with homeless people twice a week, i humbly suggest you place your foot in your mouth.

Tracysway
Tracysway

Your comment completely subverted the issue.

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