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Ann Arbor poised to change ordinance on panhandling

BY ABDURRAHMAN PASHA

FOR THE DAILY

Published July 6, 2003

The Ann Arbor City Council will vote today on whether or not to amend the city ordinance on solicitation.

If passed, panhandlers would be barred from soliticiting pedestrians at outside restaurants and cafes.

It would also outlaw the solicitation of pedestrians who are within twelve feet of the exit or entrance of parking structures, banks or Automated Teller Machines, and the Nickels Arcade, the proposal says.

The proposal also states that panhandlers cannot approach pedestrians "In a manner that appears likely to cause a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities to feel intimidated, threatened or harassed."

City Councilwoman Joan Lowenstein said the suggested measures would benefit panhandlers.

"A taskforce has met for two years to look at the problems downtown and proposed the changes to the ordinance along with funding for an outreach worker to work with street people, most of whom are not homeless but are suffering from substance abuse, " Lowenstien said.

"Giving them money only exacerbates their problems with drug abuse and alcoholism and many students unwittingly contribute to this," she added.

LSA senior Yolanda Chapman said she gives money to the homeless, regardless of what they do with it.

"They don't bother me ... I'll give money to them, even though some use the money to get drunk. Let them do what they want with the money. If they want to get drunk then let them get drunk," said Chapman.

"Students get drunk too, so they're just as bad as bums. So, if students can get drunk all the time, why can't bums? ... I don't think panhandling should be regulated," Chapman added.

Downtown retail worker Michelle Schweming said the status quo does not bother her.

"There's a few guys who stand out here, I see them everyday when I go to work. They are good guys - they bring a smile to my face," she said.

"In Ann Arbor there are regulars. I think if you took a minute to learn their names it wouldn't be such a big issue ... I can think of a handful of people that I see every single day. They don't annoy me, and I don't annoy them, " Schweming added.

LSA junior Chloe Foster said, "(The city) should focus their efforts on getting people involved ... in making more housing for the homeless."

"It's less of an inconvenience for students than it is for the panhandlers. We only see them for five seconds a day, it's not so bad," Foster said.

LSA junior Laura Marcus said homelessness is a real part of the city. "I wish they had somewhere to go," Marcus said, adding, "I don't feel uncomfortable by seeing them. I think it's reality."

"If the panhandlers weren't there people would be uninformed that there's a homeless problem in Ann Arbor," she said.


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