WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —
Panhandling could soon be legal in West Palm Beach, as the city commission gets ready to discuss rolling back restrictions.
The city commission will discuss possibly repealing the city’s panhandling ordinance, which makes it unlawful to panhandle or solicit in certain areas, during Monday’s meeting.
In West Palm Beach, panhandling is currently unlawful in public transportation vehicles, bus stations or stops, within 15 feet of any entrance or exit of a bank, within 15 feet of an ATM, within 15 feet of a check-cashing business, or from any driver or passenger of a vehicle that is in traffic on a public street. Panhandling is also prohibited in the city’s downtown and Northwood areas.
City attorneys recently reached an agreement with three people suing the city of West Palm Beach over the restrictions on panhandling.
In addition, a recent district court ruling that found Fort Lauderdale’s ordinance against panhandling was likely unconstitutional. There was also a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2015 where the court decided that panhandling laws violate the Constitution.
These factors all led to the commission examining the possible repeal of the city’s panhandling laws. Monday’s commission meeting is at 5 p.m. at city hall.
“I think it should remain unlawful,” said Renee Carvalho, who spends time in West Palm Beach. “I don’t want to be out and about in West Palm Beach and have to be harassed or accosted by somebody panhandling while I’m at a light. I just don’t want the harassment.”
“I feel like it should be legal because they’re going to do it no matter what,” said Emme Walker of West Palm Beach.
“I think it should be legal because they’re trying their hardest, but they should still go to programs,” said West Palm Beach resident Hannah Ketelsen.
“Are we going to fill the jails up with people for panhandling when there are more important criminals who could be in the jails?” said Lindsay Farrington of West Palm Beach.
“I don’t want it to fill the court systems and the jail systems with that kind of crime. I’m OK with it,” said Jill Sanchez, who lives in Palm Beach County, but regularly spends time in West Palm Beach.
“If people just addressed the homeless community, then there wouldn’t have to be a need for panhandling, period,” said Chanel Hernandez, who lives in West Palm Beach. “If we all just collectively get together as a community as one then we could all make a difference and these people wouldn’t have to do panhandling.”
Cleve Mash, the owner of Clematis Social nightclub, also weighed in:
“It’s a very complicated issue, but from a business standpoint, it definitely makes downtown more inviting not having panhandling. The city is using valuable resources to enforce it, which ultimately takes officers away from focusing on more serious issues. From a humane perspective, it’s sad to see so many homeless people on the streets and we need to find a way to help them! Not all of them are homeless by choice – they have been made homeless for a lot of tragic reasons. We need to do more to find solutions to these issues and to make matters worse, we have a big shortage of affordable housing. I am hoping the city continues to enforce it and helps provide a stress-free environment for guests visiting our beautiful city, but we need to have facilities to help them as well.”