South Carolina

Charleston can't ban panhandling so it wants to fine people for sitting on sidewalks

How to truly help panhandlers

It is natural to want to help people in need, but experts say giving cash to panhandlers may not be the best method. A better way to help is by donating to local charities designed to work with the homeless.
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It is natural to want to help people in need, but experts say giving cash to panhandlers may not be the best method. A better way to help is by donating to local charities designed to work with the homeless.

The City of Charleston is getting creative in an attempt to prohibit panhandling in a popular business area.

The City Council passed an ordinance April 10 to ban sitting or lying down on sidewalks from 8 a.m. and 2 a.m., postandcourier.com reported.

The ordinance is being proposed to promote "civil sidewalks," according to the Public Safety Committee. The ban will be enforced on busy stretches of King Street, between Line and Broad streets, and Market Street, from King and East Bay streets, in the downtown commercial district.

Violators will be fined $25 for a first offense, and up to $50 for every violation after that, live5news.com reported.

The City Council said these Charleston streets were built in the eighteenth century and are narrow by current standards, and that people sitting or lying on these sidewalks creates a safety hazard.

But it is also seen as an attempt to stop people from begging for money in the busy, tourist area that includes shopping, restaurants and college students in addition to city residents.

Business owners in the area have complained about panhandling for months, saying the activity scares away customers and causes blight with litter and crime, postandcourier.com reported.

Some homeless people said they feel targeted by the law.

“If they don’t want us sitting out here on the sidewalks and panhandling and asking for money, then they need to give us jobs,” Jeremiah O’Brien, a homeless man, told live5news.com.

It would be unconstitutional to prohibit panhandling completely. In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Homeless Justice Project got a Charleston ban on the activity overturned, charlestoncitypaper.com reported.

Partially because of that, the City Council is not banning sitting or lying in all streets in Charleston. The ordinance said there are public places in the area of King and Market streets where the activity is allowed.

The ordinance also calls on the city to make an effort to assist people who are "chronically found sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk."

There are also exceptions to the law. The City Council allows for sitting or lying in the streets in the cases of medical emergency, disability and for children in strollers. It will also be allowed when people are watching a parade, festival, performance or demonstration, as well as when waiting in line.

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