Grand Rapids City Commission Knocks Down Ban On Panhandling [Video]
The Grand Rapids City Commission voted down a potential ordinance which would have banned panhandling at high volume intersections during rush hours.
The panhandlers lining the sides on exit ramps and entrances to shopping centers has become such an issue in GR, that the City Commission voted on a policy that would have banned panhandling at certain intersections on Tuesday.
Outgoing First Ward Commissioner Dave Shaffer proposed the law, which would have restricted begging at eight high traffic intersections.
The Commission, however, voted 4-2 against the restrictions. It was the second time the Commission has voted on the panhandling issue. It was defeated in 2014 as well.
According to MLive.com, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss voted against the ban, as did Second Ward representatives Joe Jones and Ruth Kelly and Third War rep Senita Lenear.
WZZM-13 reported that a number of people showed up to speak against the proposed law, saying it would unfairly punish the homeless.
“Me, I come out here every day, wherever it might be and I try to make money, enough to survive and that’s the way it is," a man who asks to be called Daniel told FOX 17. “You think I wanna be out here doing this? You think I never did anything in my life?"
The city has implemented the "West Michigan's Hope Through Work Project" which hires the homeless for city jobs such as cleaning up trash and other odd jobs.
Public Services Director James Hurt testified Tuesday that the program is working and needs to be refunded.
A Federal Court of Appeals ruled in 2013 that a ban on panhandling was unconstitutional and peaceful panhandling was a form of freedom of speech. Most cities have instead turned their legal fight into banning what is known as 'aggressive' panhandling, but the description of what that entails has yet to be hashed out.