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Ordinance making some impact on Spokane panhandling problem

By Colleen O'Brien, Reporter / Weekend Anchor, colleeno@kxly.com
Published On: Oct 08 2012 08:58:51 PM CDT
spokane panhandlers
SPOKANE, Wash. -

While a new panhandling ordinance is in effect its still not stopping all panhandlers from flying their signs in Spokane.

It's now illegal to reach across the curb to accept money in Spokane south of Boone Avenue, west of Hamilton Street, north of 7th Avenue and east of the Maple-Ash corridor. It also bans panhandling on all I-90 on and off ramps.

There were noticeably less panhandlers out at city street corners Monday, but there were still panhandlers out there in defiance of the new ordinance.

But something else was also on the city streets Monday: A new attitude from the public, emboldened by the new ordinance.

"I happened to see those panhandlers over there and I was like 'For real?'" Elizabeth Slatt said.

Knowing the panhandling ordinance is now in effect, Slatt, tired of the begging on Spokane street corners, pulled over to take action.

"Money for beer, money for drugs, money for cigarettes you know? Get a real job," she said.

The ordinance's teeth means at the very worst a call to police will get the offender a citation. Most panhandlers KXLY spoke to Monday know this and continue to panhandle despite the threat of a misdemeanor.

"If they can't do it here, they're going to figure out something because, you know they're homeless," Bob said.

Bob refuses to admit he's a panhandler; he says he's making a political statement. His sign reads "Obama's not the only one that wants change."

Admittedly, Bob said if he's offered money he'll take it. He also quick to scold other panhandlers looking for cash while he was being interviewed for this story.

"Don't put 'Homeless, hungry, God bless anything helps' here when the House of Charity is two and a half blocks away," he told one panhandler.

Bob's right; at the House of Charity they don't take too kindly to panhandlers.

"We'll ban them from the building," House of Charity executive director Rob McCann said.

McCann has been working for 13 years with the homeless and is glad to see a panhandling ordinance. He says it'll only work if it's enforced by police and the community by not giving money to panhandlers.

"It's probably about a 95-percent negative return on your investment when you give money to a panhandler," he explained.

There is another resource for panhandlers, or anyone for that matter, to get help. Call 2-1-1; if you call that number Spokane Mental Health will help you find food, shelter or financial help.

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