Baltimore’s Proposed Panhandling Law Causes Backlash

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s a fight in Baltimore over panhandling. The City Council is considering a ban on begging in certain areas. Some say it’s an uncomfortable nuisance, but others say the panhandlers desperately need the money.

Kai Jackson has more on the contentious proposal.

The city’s plans are far from set in stone but it’s already prompting backlash.

Emotions ran high at Monday’s Baltimore City Council meeting. As city lawmakers debated the issue of panhandling, one man interrupted the meeting, yelling at leaders and accusing them of trying to sweep the homeless out of view.

“This is a warning to the homeless community that we are no longer wanted in the city of Baltimore,” he said.

Council President Jack Young ordered police to remove the man from the chamber.

A bill before the council would strengthen an existing panhandling law. It would prohibit aggressive panhandling 10 feet from restaurants and shops and five feet from parking meters.

“There ought to be a distance, a safe distance before they can approach,” said Councilmember Rikki Spector.

Opponents of the bill are furious and protested in front of City Hall.

“This is just another way for the city to tell the homeless that we’re not welcome near the Inner Harbor, the sports arenas, any hotels,” said Tony Simmons.

The panhandling issue may force city leaders to try and strike a balance between those on the streets trying to survive and area businesses trying to make a living.

“We do see a bit of a problem, a lot of guest comments,” said Matt Thomas.

Thomas is the acting general manager of the trendy B&O Brasserie on Charles Street. He’d like to see a panhandling solution that’s fair to everyone involved.

“I understand there’s always gonna be tough times for people,” he said. “Just find a way to kinda cut down on it.”

“What we should be focused on is ending the need for solicitation by ending poverty,” said an attendee.

The Downtown Partnership, which supports the bill, says it’s about giving respect to those who can’t immediately move from an area when asked for money.

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