Living on the streets, an already-difficult endeavor, just got more difficult in Boise, Idaho after the city council passed a new ordinance criminalizing panhandling in a variety of areas.
As a crowd of 40 shouted in protest and sang “We Shall Overcome”, the council approved the measure Tuesday by a 3–1 vote that’s designed to discourage homeless people from asking people for donations. The new measure makes it illegal for anyone to ask for money on a bus or train, from people waiting in line, from drivers on the road, or within 20 feet of an ATM, bank, sidewalk cafe, street vendor, public restroom, bus stop, or taxi stand. The measure also bans “aggressive” panhandling.
As long as a person satisfies all those conditions, they are allowed to ask for money. If they ask for money in the wrong place or wrong way, beginning in January they will be given an infraction followed by a criminal misdemeanor for subsequent violations.
As with measures in other cities that criminalize homelessness, proponents said the law would be good for business and make the downtown area more enjoyable for visitors.
Local resident Henry Krewer was among those protesting the new ordinance. “The city of Boise is a people city,” Krewer said. “It’s not a business city. It’s not a gated community. It’s for all people.”
A survey in April found approximately 694 homeless people living in the Boise area.
Boise joins a growing number of cities who are approaching their homeless population by making everyday aspects of their lives, such as asking for money or sleeping in public, illegal. A recent report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found a 7 percent increase in municipal panhandling bans between 2009 and 2011.