St. Louis aldermen will soon begin consideration of a proposed ordinance that would restrict a certain kind of begging - the bullying demands for money by one person or a group of people that make other people apprehensive. If the bill passes, that sort of activity - called aggressive panhandling - will be more clearly illegal, and it will receive a higher police priority for enforcement.
Over the past several years, the City and a wide-ranging partnership of public and private groups have made measurable progress in providing safe and affordable housing for homeless people and in matching up people to the many different kinds of services their problems require. We have also had some limited success in encouraging other municipalities and St. Louis county to address the situation in their own neighborhoods, rather than simply transporting them to ours. With those programs firmly established, there is no compelling argument that panhandling is essential for anyone’s survival. And there is no argument at all for not restricting aggressive panhandling.
The bill under consideration was drafted at the urging of Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, whose ward includes the busy retail districts along Euclid, and Forest Park. Nothing in the proposed ordinance would prohibit charitable organizations, non profits, or religious groups from soliciting for donations. And the penalties it calls for would be gradual, beginning with a warning. It would not affect people who merely sit with signs or cups.
Lyda says that she and her constituents will marry enforcement of the ordinance with an education campaign aimed at directing panhandlers to the appropriate service providers and with designation of plenty of collection areas for generous people to contribute their spare change to support necessary social services. I expect neighborhoods like the Loft District, Grand Center, and the Delmar Loop to do the same.
It is time to do this.