Cloudy
35°
Cloudy
Hi 50° | Lo 33°

Concord considers limits on panhandling

  • A man who calls himself Homer panhandles outside Market Basket on Thursday, May 31, 2012. Homer says, "All I need is $18.00 so I can refill the cartridge on my inhaler for my emphysema. This is miserable but I still try to keep a happy face." Homer's sign reads, "Gulf Vet, Please Help". Homer says he has applied for several jobs, including Burger King and Walmart, but says no one will hire him because his only job experience is working as a tree farmer.

    A man who calls himself Homer panhandles outside Market Basket on Thursday, May 31, 2012. Homer says, "All I need is $18.00 so I can refill the cartridge on my inhaler for my emphysema. This is miserable but I still try to keep a happy face." Homer's sign reads, "Gulf Vet, Please Help". Homer says he has applied for several jobs, including Burger King and Walmart, but says no one will hire him because his only job experience is working as a tree farmer. Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • A man who calls himself Homer panhandles outside Market Basket on Thursday, May 31, 2012. Homer says, "All I need is $18.00 so I can refill the cartridge on my inhaler for my emphysema. This is miserable but I still try to keep a happy face." Homer's sign reads, "Gulf Vet, Please Help". Homer says he has applied for several jobs, including Burger King and Walmart, but says no one will hire him because his only job experience is working as a tree farmer.

    A man who calls himself Homer panhandles outside Market Basket on Thursday, May 31, 2012. Homer says, "All I need is $18.00 so I can refill the cartridge on my inhaler for my emphysema. This is miserable but I still try to keep a happy face." Homer's sign reads, "Gulf Vet, Please Help". Homer says he has applied for several jobs, including Burger King and Walmart, but says no one will hire him because his only job experience is working as a tree farmer. Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • A man who calls himself Homer panhandles outside Market Basket on Thursday, May 31, 2012. Homer says, "All I need is $18.00 so I can refill the cartridge on my inhaler for my emphysema. This is miserable but I still try to keep a happy face." Homer's sign reads, "Gulf Vet, Please Help". Homer says he has applied for several jobs, including Burger King and Walmart, but says no one will hire him because his only job experience is working as a tree farmer.
  • A man who calls himself Homer panhandles outside Market Basket on Thursday, May 31, 2012. Homer says, "All I need is $18.00 so I can refill the cartridge on my inhaler for my emphysema. This is miserable but I still try to keep a happy face." Homer's sign reads, "Gulf Vet, Please Help". Homer says he has applied for several jobs, including Burger King and Walmart, but says no one will hire him because his only job experience is working as a tree farmer.

A proposed city ordinance could limit panhandling, which the Concord police say has increased in recent months. While officials say the ordinance would address citizen complaints and improve public safety, homeless and civil rights advocates have expressed concern.

Under the proposed ordinance, panhandlers would be unable to solicit money from people who are in their cars, inside bus stops and parking garages, or near banks and ATMs. It would also prohibit panhandling “in an aggressive manner,” such as touching, following or intimidating people to solicit money. The ordinance, written by the city’s legal department, will go before the city council next month.

“I certainly am very sensitive to the . . . needs of homeless citizens here in Concord, but this proposed ordinance is not looking to address the issue of homeless or disadvantaged citizens soliciting funds,” said Ward 4 City Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton. “This ordinance is trying to address the issue of overly aggressive panhandling.”

But an ordinance could “inadvertently criminalize poverty,” said Maggie Fogarty, a Concord-based advocate for the American Friends Service Committee. Fogarty said she plans to discuss the issue with attorneys and fellow board members for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness.

“I do approach this with some real concern that some unintentional harm could be done,” Fogarty said. “We need to approach this issue very cautiously so that we don’t inadvertently discriminate against people simply for being poor.”

Barbara Keshen, an attorney for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, said panhandling is protected under the First Amendment. She is working with other attorneys to analyze the proposed ordinance and plans to speak against it at the February city council meeting.

“There has to be other ways that a mature and compassionate society deals with people in need,” Keshen said.

Concord police Chief John Duval said he’s seen an increase in panhandling in the past year, and his department has received numerous complaints.

Most panhandlers stand at Exit 14 off Interstate 93, Fort Eddy Road, Storrs Street, Main Street or Steeplegate Mall, he said.

Sometimes residents complain of panhandlers causing verbal confrontations, Duval said, but he’s also concerned about safety when a panhandler stands in a median or next to the side of the road.

“So it’s kind of a multi-pronged issue when you talk about public safety,” he said. “It’s not just person-on-person but it’s also traffic situations.”

Grady Sexton is chairwoman of the city’s Public Safety Board, which recommended in December that the legal department present an ordinance to the city council on this issue.

She said residents often complain about panhandlers who stand near ATMs or in parking garages.

“I’ve also heard of cars stopping very quickly to give money to people who are panhandling and almost causing accidents,” she said.

Fogarty said there may be more positive ways to address safety issues, and she questioned whether concerns over harassment or traffic could be addressed in other ways.

“Yes, it is upsetting to be asked for money, and I do think that this is happening more frequently than say it was a year ago, but I don’t see Concord as having an extreme issue with panhandling,” Fogarty said. “So we need to make sure that, even though something can be upsetting or unnerving, that we don’t overreact with a response in terms of an ordinance when there might be other approaches we can take.”

Duval acknowledged that the ordinance could eliminate most panhandling in Concord, because panhandlers typically solicit donations from motorists.

It would also apply to volunteers who solicit money for charity, Duval said.

Firefighters would not be permitted to stand along the road and fill their boots with donations. Others, such as Salvation Army holiday volunteers, could continue standing on sidewalks or outside private businesses under the ordinance.

If the city council passes the ordinance, Duval said his department would begin issuing warnings and providing panhandlers with a list of places to find food, shelter, clothing and medical care. The ordinance calls for a $75 fine for a first offense and $150 for a second violation. If convicted three times in one year, a panhandler would be fined between $250 and $500 and would spend up to 90 days in jail.

Duval said some panhandling practices have raised alarm in the past year; he’s seen or received reports of panhandlers changing shifts, arriving in vehicles with out-of-state license plates and activating crosswalk signals to make vehicles stop.

“That’s not to say that we don’t have our local individuals who may in fact be homeless who are panhandling as well,” he said.

Keshen said she walks around Concord every day, and has never witnessed or heard complaints of aggressive panhandling. There are already laws that protect people from threatening and harassment, she said.

“Is this a real problem, or is it a solution in search of a problem?” Keshen said.

The police already attempt to remove panhandlers from medians where they could easily be hit by cars, and respond to complaints of disorderly conduct, Duval said.

But he called those efforts “a Band-Aid solution;” panhandlers return as soon as the police leave.

Duval believes Concord has an active network of resources for those in need, and he worries that panhandlers seek cash to purchase drugs and alcohol.

“Sometimes the best way to help people who are in need is to reach out to the organizations that provide a more systematic approach to helping people,” he said.

Fogarty said she does not encourage panhandling, nor does she encourage donating to panhandlers. But she does worry the ordinance will “illegalize a behavior simply because it makes us uncomfortable.”

It doesn’t address the issues behind panhandling she said, such as unaffordable housing and low wages.

“So I don’t want us to distract ourselves from the core problem, and our creative and intellectual and other resources need to go into constructive solutions,” she said.

The city is also working on a 10-year plan to end homelessness. Mayor Jim Bouley appointed a steering committee last week, and Fogarty will serve with that group.

Grady Sexton, Fogarty and other city officials plan to meet next week to discuss panhandling. They share a “mutual interest” in helping Concord’s homeless population, Grady Sexton said.

“So I’m optimistic that we can have a constructive process and some mutual learning because this is new turf for Concord,” Fogarty said

The city council is scheduled to hold a public hearing about the proposed panhandling ordinance Feb. 11.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Legacy Comments16

And fyi the people who support me and help me are all employees of the concord hospital! Where I love and work!

I volenteer on the streets every single day and go to the camps every single day.....none of my people like to fly a sign and find it degrading and embarrassing! Everyone wants to knock my people but no one wants to help...that's the problem. I will be writting into the paper to give my opinion! I have people ask me for work and help to get off the street every day. these people are no different then us...they are depressed down and out.....I volenteer closely with open hands and we have gotten people off the street! Lots and its not so easy to help soooooo many people that want help. My guys we helped get off the street volenteer at the shelter now and give back! I know so many people personally that are homeless and I love them all. Can't let one bad apple ruin a bunch and I learned that almost four years ago when I started to volenteer on the streets. Iam out there every single day helping them...with food clothes anything and everything. Frustrating for me...they do need things and do need to fly a sign! Iam out there every single day people and I know first hand! Every day they thank me and say I love you to me....these people have taught me so much about life love and that material things mean nothing. I will continue to help every day! Iam forever thankfull for all the people that back me and donate tons and tons of supplies.

I would like to see the Concord Monitor print more information about what IS available for anyone who needs it. Open Hands Resource Ctr., 208 North Main St., here in Concord, will gladly take your (clean) warm clothing, footwear, blankets, bottled water, monetary donations, etc. See their website for a list of specifics. I am impressed with this 501c3 non-profit organization that is also tax deductible. Open Hands is as neat as a pin. The folks running this place have specific guidelines and rules of behavior. Great place to donate to. They help people find apts., & guide those who need help to the area's resources. Hours: Mon. & Wed., 9 am - 1 pm. Sat., 9 am - 12 pm.

" It is not a crime to be poor, but it is a crime to not take advantage of the resources that are there to help." The increasing trend is to criminalize poverty. Daily I read rants against state aid recipients that characterize them as drug addicted thieves stealing "our" hard earned money, demanding an end to "entitlements" and now, let's be so petty about our collective distaste for the needy that we will legislate even their most basic attempts at asking for help by masking it as "for their own good and safety". Cut the programs, shame them, and then tape their mouths so that they many not even ask another person to help them. Shame on us all.

I run the homeless shelter in Concord and I can tell you everyone is right with where the money is going. I can tell you they are not trying to come into our shelter. When I see a new face I will pull over and give them my card and tell them to call the shelter. I can't tell you how many times I have been almost hit by another car because someone was looking at the person panhandling or trying not to look at them. This need to stop. I am on of the many who have called the PD When I do a food drive for the shelter or the food pantry I have to pay for a permitt and have rules to follow. Lorrie Dale Shelter Director

Thanks Lorrie, your imput from someone who actually deals with this issue is greatly appreciated.

Lorrie, you are right on the money. God Bless you for helping the needy, and not the lazy and greedy.

Harbor Home in Nashua and Liberty house in Manchester have some great programs for Vets. There are a couple other places but off the top of my I cant remember the names of them. The VA in Manchester would help with referral etc. They also have a shuttle bus.

Duval and his forces are the ones that deal with panhandling. He believes that Concord has active resources for those in need. I also would assume that a Gulf War Vet can obtain meds, housing help and job securement thru the VA. It is not a crime to be poor, but it is a crime to not take advantage of the resources that are there to help. Just a matter of time before one of these panhandlers gets hit by a car, or causes an accident.

The people we see handling are not the regular homeless we see downtown. My husband and I have seen people panhandling while talking on cell phones and 2 or 3 huge dunkin donuts cups near them on the ground. About to weeks ago my husband saw a woman with a child on Storrs street, panhandling. He went into Marketbasket to shop. Low and behold a man and the same woman and child were in line with 2 30 packs of beer. Just saying. Thepeople panhandling in Concord appear to me to be from out of the area, because we dont have the laws that Manchester and Nashua have.

I saw one of the "panhandlers" that stands in front of Burlington Coat in the express checkout lane at Storrs Street Market Basket one afternoon a few weeks ago. He had his cardboard sign folded up, sticking out of his pack as he purchased SIX Bud Ice 24 oz pounders (beers).

Panhandling should be outlawed, period. They need to get a freak-in job, not a handout.

You are being hypocritical by using your First Amendment right in order to anonymously advocate the violation of others’ First Amendment right to panhandle.

It should be a crime to be poor? How about criminalizing illness, too? That should solve everything.

We allow all the non-profit charities to call us, text us, send mail to us, come to our work places daily soliciting money. The charities seek donations about any way they can think of and some of those charity leaders are paid millions in salaries to come up with even more ways to solicit money. We allow the political parties to solicit money in most any form also with supreme court cases saying it is legal. I wonder if local business’ were getting a cut of the action such as advertising dollars, office rentals, etc..., if they would then be OK with it. Here are a hand full just standing with a sign and we want to outlaw it. One can clearly see that the wording of this proposal would pretty much eliminate panhandling....... What bothers me more - walking through a mall with all the people telling you to buy their cell phones!!

The charities are regestered and audited to show that the monies raised go to a specific cause. The panhandlers signs are asking for food, shelter. They should say "beer, wine, drugs, etc." Then you can make a choice to give them money or not. What they are requesting from the citizens are now available from all the agencys that are in Concord. They are ripoff con's.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.