Friday, September 12, 2014

Is Panhandling Ban In San Antonio Illegal?

#TexasNewsBlog #TexasNews #SanAntonio

Last week my wife and I spent a few days in San Antonio on vacation. While we were there - several people asked us for money in downtown and on the Riverwalk. I usually just say no when someone asks for money - simply because I expect any monetary contribution I make to them will quickly be taken to a nearby liquor store and spent on booze. During our vacation in San Antonio we saw a news story on television that talked about the desire of the police chief there to make it a criminal offense for anyone to give money to a panhandler on the street. I must admit I was shocked when I heard this news and thought to myself that such a law would probably be unconstitutional. Over the past week - the Chief of Police in San Antonio has continued his lobbying efforts of city council members to pass his 'no panhandling' bill. Folks - I know none of us enjoy being approached on the street by people who are asking for money. That said, it is completely insane for a city to decide to punish honest citizens who make the decision to help out their fellow man by giving them a dollar or two. San Antonio is a wonderful place to visit - but many people will just decide to go somewhere else – if the local police department decides to start writing visitors tickets - simply because they made the choice to offer a small amount of money to some homeless person living on the streets.


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1 comment:

Aaron Michaelian said...

Good point, that you make and I appreciate your concern for those who are less fortunate at this time in their lives. There are centers that are set up in San Antonio that specifically serve our homeless population. In fact, San Antonio Haven for Hope has been known as the Hilton for the Homeless and receives many transients due to this label from places as far away as California and New York. The main problem with pan handling comes down to two issues. Traffic Safety and Loitering.

In San Antonio, the homeless have many places to solicit donations. Most common are the exit ramps leading from many of our highways. Traffic congestion is already a problem in any big city. However, when panhandlers are running cross traffic to receive money, food or water from a Good Samaritan. That Samaritan endangers the life of the recipient at a minimum.

Loitering is a huge problem when it comes to panhandling in the city. I used to live close to the I-10 and Foster road, an area frequented by Truckers and travelers. As such, panhandlers consistently approach people while gassing their cars, at ATMs, and even in the bathrooms. Since one of the convenience store was literally about 1.5 miles from my old home, I would go to the local Valero for sodas, lottery tickets or the occasional candy bar for my young son.

I would frequently give change, a soda or sandwich to those who would ask. The main problem I noticed about the transients is that they never left. One day, a man would show up with a gas can and say that his car ran out of gas 2 miles down the road, could someone spare some change. The next day, he would be without the can, but with a bike that had a flat, needing change to on turn the air machine. No matter how much money he received, it was never enough and he never stopped asking. A tire can only hold so much air, and a can only hold so much gas. However, he and his panhandling crew of 6, only left the scene when police started to hang around the area due to an abandoned car wash being used as a dumping ground (San Antonians seem to love not paying for refuse, and dumping it in someone else’s neighborhood).

While I am certain there are some that truly have intentions on bettering their predicament? From my experience of volunteering and community actions; Downtown tourism feeds the problem even more, as the panhandlers, constantly have new people to solicit donations. When I have volunteered, it seems to be those who have humbled and have come to ask for the assistance from large organizations like churches and Haven for Hope that have truly helped these individuals. In all my time as a volunteer, I've never met a homeless person, whose life has been completely changed due to amount of spare change a tourist gives them on the river walk or at a traffic light.