Majority of Aurora council moves to discourage panhandling with signs, charitable campaign

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The majority of the Aurora City Council signaled support for a charitable campaign called “Give Real Change” that would encourage people to donate money to organizations dedicated to helping people experiencing homelessness rather than offer cash to panhandlers. Screen shot via City of Aurora

AURORA | The City of Aurora may soon ask you to save your cash for charities rather than individuals flying signs at local intersections, after City Council members signaled their support for a proposed anti-panhandling campaign Monday.

While courts have ruled that the mere act of asking strangers for money or help is protected speech, the City of Aurora has laws that specifically prohibit “aggressive begging” and approaching drivers in traffic.

In addition to that proposal, Councilmembers Angela Lawson and Steve Sundberg want the city to spread awareness of established charities, specifically Spirit of Aurora, that accept donations for homeless people, offering those as an alternative to patronizing panhandlers.

“It lessens the cycle of dependency that some people might have,” Sundberg said, mentioning the phenomenon of drug use among the homeless that could be fueled by cash handouts. “We just hope that in the long term this will lead to better care and well-being for folks around town.”

The city would use social media and other channels to spread the word and also set up signs in areas frequented by panhandlers to discourage drivers from handing out cash and impacting traffic. 

Lawson specifically cited the intersection of Parker Road and Peoria Street as one location where she has seen people sitting and standing on the edge of a narrow median, close to passing cars.

“I’ve seen where some of the people who are panhandling have almost gotten hit, and there’s also little altercations between drivers, because when that light goes green, then people are ready to go,” she said. “To me, it’s a public safety issue for the people who are doing the panhandling, and also for … the drivers in many, many cases.”

City of Aurora staffers chose “Give Real Change” as the motto for the effort to steer donations toward charities rather than panhandlers.

Kim Stuart, the city’s director of communications and marketing, said producing and setting up anti-panhandling signs would cost around $400 per sign.

She said the city typically budgets around 10% of the cost of the sign per year for maintenance, though traffic manager Carlie Campuzano said signs in medians are more likely to be struck by cars and acknowledged the panhandling signs were “probably going to be likely to be vandalized more often than other signs.”

But opponents said Sundberg and Lawson’s proposal lacked important details that could have been worked out if it had gone through a policy committee first, which Sundberg said they had dispensed with to save time, mentioning how other cities have enacted similar campaigns and how the study session was also an opportunity to finalize the proposal.

The proposal did not come with a projection of the number of signs needed or an overall cost estimate, which Councilmember Juan Marcano pointed out before saying he wouldn’t support the plan without more data on the efficacy of similar campaigns.

Councilmember Alison Coombs also wondered how often police are citing panhandlers for dangerous behavior around busy intersections and how often traffic accidents are caused by panhandlers, among other details — staffers were unable to provide that data Monday.

“Where’s the data around those issues?,” she asked. “That just is all information that I think would be really beneficial for us to have, and that we probably would have been able to have if this had gone to any policy committees at all.”

Coombs, Marcano, Ruben Medina and Crystal Murillo ultimately said they didn’t support the proposal moving forward from Monday’s study session — not enough to stop it from proceeding to a regular meeting for a formal vote, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 12.

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Dean
1 month ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYPveHoqNPc

This council and these new social justice subjects are getting plenty of ink. Channel 9 covered a couple of councils study session differing takes almost 6 minutes’ worth. So perhaps all this might be on a ballot so the taxpayer can see and make the ultimate decisions. That fine with me.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago

Once again, the four comrades on the council want no part of anything that might direct money to clean up the eyesores, decrease public danger, and encourage the homeless to seek help to extricate themselves from their miserable situation. They’d rather turn a blind eye to grifters who profit from the wrong-headed, criminal-friendly policy — many of whom are their comrades running various scam charities.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

Unless they have contact with city officials, how would homeless folks know about the charities? I know there is some “outreach,” but obviously that isn’t reaching all the unhoused. And even if they want to avail themselves of assistance, they must have some way of getting to the places that offer the help.

The Council lacked pertinent information and facts that would have been available had this proposal gone though the normal channels of a policy-committee study. I would like to see the issue referred to the committee before further action is taken. Just because someone thinks he has all the answers doesn’t mean he does.

No one likes panhandlers. Their activity is often dangerous and the cash is often used to buy drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. I have witnessed them going out into the street between the lanes of traffic. I’m sure that is illegal activity that can be enforced. I do not give them money, but I have offered to buy them food.

This is definitely a problem that merits more study.

sugar
sugar
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

$400 per sign? Where is the City getting their signs?

Why didn’t this proposal go to a committee?

I don’t feel the signs will stay up for long – such a
waste of city funds!

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  sugar

DId you just call homeless people criminals? It is illegal to deface public property

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Based on conversations with city officials, my impression is there are precious few unhoused who know nothing of the available resources, as outreach workers are on the streets weekly. Getting those who won’t access resources because they won’t play by their rules is another thing altogether.

Don Black
Don Black
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Are you actually talking about enforcement? That would mean that the police would be accused of racism for taking action on something considered minor. The narrative has destroyed the idea that the police will enforce anything minor that might result in resistance.

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Joe, it seems you are underestimating the level of sophistication the homeless and or panhandlers possess. So many have cell phones, you see they have power generators, they share information what and where services are if they want to get the free-bees.(ie- charities) The council to continue to out think what citizen interaction may or may not be and want to intervene into that becomes a example of gov. overreach.The council not to think about the practical part of this. These signs will be great firewood for free heat. You don’t think these signs won’t be consumed on the spot….come on. If the council wants to clean up and get serious about these trashed out mediums do like Denver has done at major hot-spots. Post a no trespassing and no loitering for any purposes. And more important, Aurora, enforce the frickin codes for once in your lives around here.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Well I’m against pan handling as well. Free speech? Hogwash. There’s gotta be a way though. Likely if people didn’t give them money they wouldn’t be there.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Mark this as the day Doug AGREED with the new council majority

Gus Mulligan
Gus Mulligan
1 month ago

This in my opinion is a dumb idea, I prefer to give money directly to people. If I give a panhandler $5, he receives $5. If I give $5 to some charity the homeless would be lucky to see 1/2 of that amount. $2.50 would go for “Administrative and Fundraising. Do I care what the person does with the money? No, I don’t, I would hope he would use it to get something to eat or pay for a room somewhere. But if he uses it to buy a bottle of cheap wine, that is his decision. Now keeping the panhandlers from getting in the way of traffic etc, fine.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Gus Mulligan

Gus, you seem to be confused. The money would be directed to the city’s fund to provide services, not to one of the many sham 501c3s run by activists and comrades. There is no ancillary fundraising effort and administration is already in place.

Tawny Fox
Tawny Fox
1 month ago

As usual, Coombs and Marcano are pushing for actual work and facts to make sensible decisions, while the alt-right Council want to do performative BS.

Again, and again, and again, our sensible Council members try to bring data-driven policies that have been proven to help combat homelessness, while the “other side” just wants to hide the people who are suffering.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Tawny Fox

LOL, “alt-right council”. Should we start calling the socialists the alt-Left?

Publius
Publius
1 month ago

Don’t feed the bears. Instead work to restore their habitat so they can feed themselves.