City, State Leaders Looking at New Ways to Deal with Old Issue of Panhandling
ST. CLOUD - Panhandlers are an issue that many cities the size of St. Cloud, and larger, have to deal with. The question that has nagged city leaders for years is, "what, if anything, can be done about it?".
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis says back in the 1980s and 1990s city ordinances against the practice of standing on a street corner and asking for money were ruled unconstitutional.
Right now the legal advise we're getting is anything we've looked at is considered by our legal team as unconstitutional.
Kleis says his office has been looking into the issue for several months, including the possibility of changing the wording of existing ordinances.
The aspect of panhandling is solicitation, so are there areas in our laws where we have solicitation. Can that be a piece that we can use?
Kleis says his office is also working with the League of Minnesota cities to see what other towns have legally done to curb the practice.
Meanwhile, a new law that was passed by the state legislature earlier this year could also be applied to some who are holding signs and panhandling. Rockville Representative Jeff Howe authored a bill that, as of August 1st, makes it illegal to impersonate a veteran. He says that's not the intent of the new law, but if they're holding a sign that says they're a veteran when in fact they are not, that's a misdemeanor.
There was some discussion about the people that are panhandling. This wasn't the intent, but I firmly believe that if they are impersonating and portraying something that they are not, I think that is wrong and they shouldn't be doing it.
Howe's bill actually stems from an incident in Willmar where a man dressed up as a retired sergeant major.
Kleis says Stearns County Social Services and local nonprofit organizations also continue to reach out to panhandlers and let them know what services are available to them here in St. Cloud.