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Court issues restraining order against SLC panhandling laws

by Eric S. Peterson
Posted // 2010-06-10 -

Advocates for Utah’s low-income residents were awarded a stipulated restraining order against Salt Lake City to keep it from enforcing anti-panhandling laws.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of several homeless individuals in the city who felt laws against soliciting money from the side of the road were unfairly applied to them, while leaving alone people seeking charitable solicitations. (Think firemen carrying boots to be filled with spare change into the medians of busy roads.)

In broader terms, the suit has been a pushback against the city’s efforts to solve the homeless problem by criminalizing it, rather than treating it.

Now, in a small victory, Judge Ted Stewart of the U.S. District Court issued today an order stipulating the temporary city-wide ban of enforcement of current anti-panhandling laws, with the exception of panhandling that occurs near freeway on ramps. The stipulated agreement also allows for pending panhandling charges against individuals to be put on hold until the lawsuit is settled.

“It’s a sign that they’re taking it seriously,” says Bill Tibbits of the Crossroad Urban Center, one of the low-income advocates fighting recent trends in penalizing Salt Lake City’s indigent population. “Hopefully this will all be resolved soon.”

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Posted // June 10,2010 at 16:44

This is kind of a lacking and short sighted article. While the Crossroads Urban Center does many amazing and wonderful things for our city, fighting this battle is not one of them. They were actively involved in the careful planning and execution of this ordinance(so they would both have a voice and to protect people in need) as was the Road Home. To say that the city is criminalizing homelessness is again, compleatly inaccurate.

AGRESSIVE panhandling is what the city is trying to curb. You know, that guy that follows you, crying, going on about needing bus fare(for the 3rd time this week) or the guy who follows you to or from the ATM and talks to you about needing money even after you have said no or not right now? Sitting on a sidewalk holding a sign asking for help is a right protected by the consitution. A fact that was continuasly considered and respected while crafting this ordinance.


Posted // June 10,2010 at 18:18 - This lawsuit is not about the law Mayor Becker proposed last year that was never finalized or voted on by the City Council-- although there would be serious constitutional issues if the police started "enforcing" a law that was never passed and so was not a law. This lawsuit is about the SLCPD's enforcement of a state law that is already on the books. People have been given tickets for quietly holding a sign asking for help on city sidewalks. That is why a First Amendment attorney was willing to file the lawsuit.