Broward News

Fort Lauderdale Panhandling Ban to Kick In Wednesday

The new ordinance banning "aggressive panhandling" citywide and regular panhandling in specific places has been finalized and is set to take effect on Wednesday, at which time you will no longer be able to ask for money in bus stations, buses, city-owned garages, parking lots and parks, or within 15 feet of sidewalk cafes, businesses, ATMS, and parking meters.

Though it might help shove the homeless elsewhere, some South Florida homelessness advocates say it's the wrong move because it doesn't address the problem -- though the city encourages citizens to "contribute to the solution," those working closely with the homeless say the solution isn't around to contribute to.

"It's a Band-Aid, nothing more," said Laura Hansen, CEO of the Coalition to End Homelessness. "The problem is all of our shelters are full every single night... There's no place for us to put homeless people, and in addition to that most of our homeless clients don't qualify for the shelter available."

Hillary Glass, the coalition's operations manager, said their center is "one of the only places that only requires you to be homeless," as opposed to other assistance centers with more stringent guidelines.

"If you're out there and you're drinking on the street, we still think you should be able to take a shower," Glass said.

She added that their facility doesn't have overnight services, but provides a space for people to take showers and get access to computers and phones. She said 30 people a day can come through.

"People get annoyed when we have to tell them to come back," she said. "I don't think there are enough facilities to just help people."

Hansen said a major problem is rooted in the lack of services for the "chronic homeless," who have generally been homeless for a year or more and are "more likely to have substance abuse and mental health issues, and they're much more difficult to help." The chronic homeless, she said, are the ones who are doing the panhandling.

"That population is the population that the community finds aesthetically displeasing," Hansen said. "I don't think [the new ordinance] is going to do anything in particular. The police already arrest homeless people whenever they want to... The homeless population is not going to go away. There's no place for them to go."