New ordinance would make passing food, money to panhandlers illegal

FRESNO, California -- Corners at intersections in most major cities are popular places for panhandlers to solicit money from passing cars. Rick Baker is one of those who stands with a sign, hoping for a donation.

"I do this so I can eat," he said. "I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I do nothing. I just want to eat."

But Fresno city council member Steve Brandau sees what Baker and others do as a problem.

"A lot of times you see pedestrians going out in traffic, soliciting money and food from drivers and it's time to put an end to that," he said.

Brandau is proposing an ordinance that would stop anyone in a car from giving money or food to anyone standing within 200 yards of an intersection.

"It gives the driver a ticket if they pass food or any object to a person standing on the sidewalk," he said.
Brandau says his goal is to keep the panhandlers from getting hit and avoid fender benders caused by drivers who stop to give.

Council member Esmerelda Soria told KFSN-TV she does not support the ordinance.

"I believe it's a band-aid approach to the bigger issue that we have," she said. "The issue of poverty, homelessness, mental health [and] drug addiction."

Soria says the city has just received millions of dollars in state money to deal with those issues and feels once programs are rolling, there will be fewer panhandlers on the streets.

KFSN-TV asked drivers what they think of the proposed donation ban.

"I think it will help a little bit, but it won't solve the problem," one driver said.

Baker doesn't agree with Brandau's plan, but will abide by the rules if it's passed.

"The law is the law," he said. "I can't change it."

If the ordinance is approved, the fine for giving a panhandler anything from a car would be $75 and would be in effect for just one year then reviewed.The anti-panhandling ordinance will be considered by the Fresno city council on Thursday, March 21.
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