Wisconsin community targets panhandling

Anecdotal evidence suggests there’s been a big increase in panhandling by the side of Twin Cities roadways, usually at off-ramps, and just outside businesses.

It’s not just The Cities, apparently.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that Superior, Wisconsin, has so many people panhandling that it’s considering a new law making it illegal to ask anyone for money within 300 feet of a business, and within 50 feet of an intersection or roadway.

If a person says “no” once, it would also be illegal for a panhandler to push the issue.

The proposed ordinance does not restrict people’s constitutional right to hold up a sign or speak, according to supporters. It creates a buffer zone, restricting where and how people can ask for money. The ordinance would work for panhandlers standing outside and those who drive up in cars asking for money.

“Part of the reason for the ordinance is when people approach somebody asking for money there is a threatening feel, even if no threat is intended,” LaGesse said.

People have to determine for themselves if they feel safe giving money, LaGesse said. He did advise that those who want to give money to people who need assistance can always earmark funds for a charitable organization.

“Writing a check, whether to the Salvation Army or your favorite food shelf, that is safe,” he said. “And they’ll administer the funds in a prescribed manner, rather than opening your wallet on the street.”

Related: The Beggars of Lakewood (NY Times).