Proposed ballot initiative would crack down on street-side panhandling in Denver

Panhandlers would not be allowed to face traffic

DENVER - A Denver attorney is behind a proposal to crack down on street-side panhandling in the City of Denver.

Attorney Gregory Stross is going before city officials with hopes of creating an ordinance that would ultimately go on the November 2016 ballot.

The Denver Safer Streets Initiative would make it illegal for anyone without a permit to conduct "street-side activities" that pose any danger to cars, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Violators could be slapped with up to a $300 fine or face 15 days of jail time.

In a letter to the city, Stross said: "This problem, predominately caused by corner panhandling, has grown substantially in recent years, in parallel with the increase of Denver's homeless population."

He went on to write that the ordinance would not specifically reference panhandling, but the ordinance would undoubtedly impact it.

“In all reality, we’re at a loss. We don’t really know what he’s trying to do other than attack homeless people," said Ray Lyall, who has been living on the streets for two years.

Lyall and others with Denver Homeless Out Loud attended a recent review session between Stross and city officials.

Denver7 reached out to Stross for comment but he declined an on-camera interview. He told reporter Liz Gelardi that he plans on making some revisions to the current proposal.

Denver's City Attorney responded to Stross and pointed out that the city already has an ordinance restricting street-side solicitation.

Language in the new draft ordinance states that a person could only be cited if he or she was previously told to stop and after, "a peace officer has sought to have a Designated Human Service Outreach Worker evaluate the person for medical or human services assistance, including but not limited to mental health treatment, drug or alcohol rehabilitation or homeless services assistance."

"We’ll be keeping an eye on it and we’ll be there to fight it all the way," said Lyall.

ACLU representatives attended that review session to learn more about the measure. Spokesperson John Krieger, with the ACLU of Colorado released the following statement:

The proponent claims this measure targets disruptions to traffic. What it really targets is poor persons who stand on the side of the street peacefully displaying signs asking for charity, an activity that is squarely protected by the First Amendment. There is no evidence of traffic disruption. This measure is a non-solution in search of a problem.


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