Colorado Springs is about to decide whether or not it wants to ban panhandling in certain areas of the city limits.
The ordinance specifically targets panhandlers in areas of downtown and the West Side that have seen an uptick in homelessness and crime. While many are in support, others are outraged.
Colorado Springs has a large population of homeless residents who live mainly in the downtown area and the West Side. In recent years, city ordinances have pushed homelessness west towards Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs where residents are now reporting an increase in crime associated with the panhandling.
That crime includes public intoxication, theft, burglary, and in some cases even violence.
Local business owners have come before the city council on multiple occasions calling for changes in laws and ordinances in order to combat homelessness in the area.
Now city officials are trying to fix the problems.
“This is a struggle in cities across the country,” said Bob Loevy, CC Political Science professor. “It often surfaces when a trip downtown means someone begging to you for money. Legislation wording [on panhandling] has been upheld in courts in other cities around the country.”
The ordinance going before city council is an example of a city attorney, in this case Chris Melcher, believing that the wording of the law is in compliance with the constitution of the United States, said Loevy.
The Colorado College Student Government Association has been fighting hard against the outcry to ban panhandling, claiming that Melcher’s belief that the ordinance is constitutional is wrong.
“We are writing City Council in order to present a student opinion regarding the proposed panhandling ordinance,” wrote CCSGA in an open letter to City Council last week. “We, the Colorado College Student Government Association, are very concerned about several recent initiatives that affect our community.”
The letter highlights how the city has made laws and taken steps to make life difficult for indigent and homeless persons, citing community building, instead of legislation, to fix the issues that are engulfing the streets.
Joining the CCSGA in their fight against the ordinance is the American Civil Liberties Union, which claims that banning begging is a violation of the first amendment and that panhandling is a form of speech.
Law enforcement, business owners and many locals say the ordinance is a good thing, however.
The ordinance goes before City Council on Oct. 9 and later a second reading on Oct. 23, according to the Denver Post.