Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chamber Getting Testy About Panhandlers

The Chamber of Commerce wants the city to start cracking down on the 'passive' panhandlers that operate on the east side of town, notably those that trade shifts near the intersection of 13 and Giant City Road and hold signs asking for help (I am always amused by the "Help Wanted" sign on the Burger King less than 50 yards away. I have heard that the Burger King manager has offered assorted panhandlers work and gotten turned down). Here's the press release the Chamber sent out yesterday:

The Chamber’s Board of Directors last week approved a resolution calling on the council to control or restrict panhandling and similar activities, especially on the community’s east side. The resolution has been sent individually to each member of the Council, Chamber Executive Director Les O’Dell said. The Chamber resolution includes nine suggested actions.
                “These bullet points are simple changes to the code or examples of steps other communities have taken to combat this problem,” O’Dell said. “Our goal is not to infringe on anyone’s personal rights, but it is to improve the appeal of Carbondale as a great place to shop, dine, attend school and live.”
                In presenting the resolution, the Chamber said the presence of individuals holding signs which state a need for help is a safety concern, especially in high traffic areas.
                The Chamber was partially responsible for a change in city ordinance several years ago dealing with aggressive panhandling. The new resolution looks to further regulate both aggressive and passive panhandling. Suggestions from the resolution include requiring panhandlers to obtain a free, city-issued license; treat panhandlers as solicitors; requiring them to wear reflective vests; increasing the minimum distance a panhandler can be from an automated teller machine and prohibiting panhandlers from making fraudulent statements.
                The full resolution:
We, the Government Affairs Committee and the Board of Directors of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, representing more than 400 businesses and organizations in our community, urge the Carbondale City Council to consider one or more revisions to the Carbondale revised city code to address the growing and on-going problem with panhandlers, particularly those frequenting the retail sector of the city’s east side.

We feel that the presence of these “sign-holders,” while currently legal, is a source of an unnecessary blight to our community, especially the restaurants, retailers and other businesses in this area. The presence of these individuals--many of whom have unpaid citations with the City and lengthy criminal histories--is distracting to motorists (a very serious safety concern at extremely busy intersections). Additionally, their presence negatively impacts the appeal of businesses in this area, potentially reducing customer visits, revenue for these business and ultimately revenue to the City of Carbondale in the form of city sales tax. Furthermore, the presence of these individuals may cause prospective Southern Illinois University students and their families to view our community as unsafe, leading them to enroll in other institutions.

We urge the Carbondale City Council to take action to control or restrict these panhandling activities. Our research has led us to several options worthy of consideration:

·         Amend Section 14-4-10 of the Carbondale City Code to change the definition of panhandling to include both “passive” and “active” (or “aggressive”) panhandling.

·         Creation of “Demonstration-Free Zones” in the business-oriented parts of the community.

·         Treatment of panhandlers as solicitors, requiring a city permit. Such a permit could be free of cost, requiring only registration with the city. Permits could be pending a criminal background check and would not be issued if the requestor has any outstanding financial balances with the city. Fingerprinting also may be a requirement.

·         Make licenses/permits expire within 90 days and/or make such permits revocable.

·         Make panhandlers subject to Section 5-5B of the city code pertaining to solicitors.

·         Require panhandlers to wear a photo ID (or permit) at all times. The reverse of the permit could include a list of charitable services available to those truly in need.

·         Because these individuals are standing along busy roadways and at busy intersections, require them to wear fluorescent safety vests.

·         Prohibit these individuals from knowingly making any fraudulent or misleading representations (by any means) including, but not limited to falsely stating that the solicitor is from out of town and stranded, falsely that he or she is or was a member of the armed forces; stating falsely that the solicitor is homeless or falsely stating that they are seeking money for charitable purposes.

·         Prohibiting solicitation within 1,000 feet of a bank, financial institution, ATM, playground, school, retail shopping facility or restaurant.

On behalf of our member-businesses and their customers we encourage you to address this issue and look forward to working with you to make Carbondale a more attractive community for business.


  1. I get a laugh out of seeing the same sign exchange hands throughout the week. Apparently, they've all got three kids. If you're going to run a racket, at least keep your stories straight.

  2. Living in downtown Carbondale for over 20 years I have witnessed the number actual homeless families some with children as young as 4 and 5. These are human beings just like us who are in need. They are not "distractions" or "blights"; they are people. I am utterly disappointed with Carbondale's citizens and officials complete lack of compassion. Come on people this could be you or someone you love. Will you drive them out of town as well simply for being less fortunate? There are relatively no jobs here, housing is outrageous priced for town in Southern Illinois. There is no shelter that can handle the size of problem we really have in Carbondale. Do you believe fining someone in desperate need of food and housing is compassionate. Do you really think it is right for this to be done to men, women, children, seniors, veterans and people with mental illness or lack of education and opportunity? Show some compassion and quite being so greedy and selfish. Help your neighbor, friend or stranger. It is the right thing to do.

  3. Another example of the global criminalization of the homeless in Carbondale.

  4. We need to stop calling these people panhandlers and start calling them what they really are, beggars. Calling them panhandlers is far too hip for these people. These folks are professional beggars. Why aren't we applying the ordinances which concern loitering and vagrancy? I'm sure the Jackson County Sheriff's department could find work for them, along with free room and board. Of course, cable tv is not included!

    1. That makes sense...lock up all the homeless people and then we can all pay for their non-care and keep the cycle going. Maybe then even more 'regular' taxpayers will go broke and take the place of 'these people,' and so on. Doesn't sound like a solution to me.

    2. Who said anything about ALL HOMELESS PEOPLE? I refer only to those "beggar / panhandlers" who think that it is ok to use our public corners to make their illegally gained profits. Do you think that these people report their earnings to the IRS?