Should panhandling and camping in the city be legal?

Susan St. Amour panhandles on a median in Portland, Maine. The city tried to ban loitering on medians last year, but a judge found the law unconstitutional. Caroline Losneck for NPR

Laws that criminalize homelessness are on the rise across the country, according to a new report by an advocacy group. The laws prohibit everything from sleeping in public to loitering and begging. Advocates for the homeless say the laws are making the problem worse. More on this story from NPR’s Pam Fessler.

Today’s Question: Should panhandling and camping in the city be legal?

  • Joe

    Yes

  • Sue de Nim

    Yes. As long as We the People choose to have such a weak social safety net that folks can fall into the kind of destitution that leads to such behavior, we have no right to expect that it will not occur. It should be legal, because the consequences of our uncompassionate collective choices should be visible for all of us to see. How else will our collective conscience be prodded to change things? We won’t solve the problem of poverty by requiring the poor to hide.

  • PaulJ

    Nope. It is unsafe and unsightly. If people can’t cope with social norms, they need help. But, they shouldn’t be allowed to cause problems.

  • Rich in Duluth

    Yes. To me it’s pretty clear that panhandling should be protected as free speech. Just because we don’t like what someone says or it makes us uncomfortable, doesn’t mean they can’t say it.

    I don’t think we have a Constitutional right to camp; so camping should be in designated areas.

    • Max

      No. Laws against panhandling are subject to intermediate scrutiny because they regulate the time, place, or manner of speech and not the content.

      • Joe

        I want a buffer zone between me and panhandlers like people who seek abortions want between them and those pro-lifers who don’t have jobs!

      • PaulJ

        Doesn’t the protection of speech refer to political speech. Panhandlers can be quite threatening, I don’t see how that is protected speech.

  • Zepaw

    Just banning them doesn’t take away the problem. They don’t stop being homeless because we don’t see them on street corners.

  • JQP

    There isn’t a law that says you have to “own/rent” residence or have a job.

    You are guaranteed equal protection under the law.
    You are a citizen by birth … not by money or possessions.

    but the same logic…

    there is no promise that you will be allowed to live anyway you want on public or private land.
    there is no requirement that public money be spent to help you out of EVERY predicament.

    end thought…
    its you someday … got sick, lost the job, house, car, … on the street …
    How do you want to be treated.
    Like a criminal?

  • Where are our priorities.

    As long as it’s legal for some criminal banker to take someone’s house, some criminal CEO to outsource someone’s job overseas, or some criminal politician destroy the public infrastructure and social safety net that could keep someone from becoming homeless in the first, then it’s just too hypocritical to make homelessness illegal. If homeless people make you uncomfortable, you really need to reassess your ethics.

  • Amy

    Not until there are sufficient shelters and available jobs that pay the homeless for community service so they don’t have to beg to survive. Criminalizing homelessness does nothing to solve the problem.