Word on the street


During the recent debate at City Hall over the new ordinance restricting aggressive solicitation, dozens of business and community leaders lined up to complain about the impact panhandling has on the quality of life in Downtown and Uptown.

On June 15, the Council voted 9–3 to pass the ordinance that adds additional restrictions on certain types of panhandling in the city.

The city already has restrictions against aggressive panhandling, but this ordinance goes further by placing time, manner and place restrictions on asking for money. The ordinance bans people from asking for money within 80 feet of an ATM or entrance to a financial institution; within 50 feet of parks, sporting facilities and the Minneapolis Convention Center; and within 10 feet of crosswalks, convenience stores, gas stations and liquor stores. The ordinance also prohibits people in a group of two or more from asking for money and does not allow solicitation at night.

The ordinance does not apply to people who have a sign and are passively sitting, standing or performing. Outside of the time, manner and place restrictions in the ordinance, people are still allowed to ask once — but not repeatedly — for money.

The ordinance generated a lot of debate and raised questions about how much of a problem aggressive panhandling is in the city and how far the city should go in restricting this type of behavior.

A couple of Downtown Journal reporters hit the streets to talk to Dowtown residents, workers and panhandlers about their views and experiences on being asked — and asking — for money. Highlights of the interviews follow.

Agha Javed Iqbal, corner of Hennepin and 11th Street
As someone who is currently experiencing homelessness, Agha Javed Iqbal said he has asked people for money by holding a sign but has never aggressively asked by following someone. He said he doesn’t see panhandlers aggressively asking for money.

“I see people who are calm and quiet [asking for money],” Iqbal said.

Iqbal is homeless and stays at a Catholic Charities shelter. He used to drive cabs and school buses for a living but is now unemployed. Iqbal has knee problems that limit his ability to work a physically demanding job.

Darnell Howard, Hennepin and 9th Street
Darnell Howard, 40, works at the Downtown Radisson Plaza Hotel, 35 S. 7th St., and the Salvation Army. He thinks panhandling shouldn’t be targeted by Minneapolis lawmakers because there are larger problems to address.

“It’s the gangbangers or people who want to gangbang that they should be focusing on,” Howard said. “If [panhandling] is something people have to do to make ends meet, then it’s a good thing.”

Howard said he would “occasionally” give to panhandlers. He does not think panhandling is a problem in Minneapolis but he said it might be a problem for some people in some areas.

Denny Paulsen, Hennepin and 8th Street
Denny Paulsen, 27, works Downtown as a valet for the Chambers Hotel, 901 Hennepin Ave. S. He sees aggressive panhandling happens a few times a week in front of the hotel, mostly to hotel guests.

“Usually, if you tell them to move along, they will,” Paulsen said. “But sometimes [panhandlers] will get into people’s faces.”

Paulsen thinks police should crack down on panhandling but that the city should make a greater effort in presenting panhandlers with other opportunities so they don’t have to resort to begging.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Paulsen said.

Dan Fick, 15 S. 9th St.
Dan Fick, 19, attends the Arts Institutes International Minnesota.He has seen panhandling and has been aggressively panhandled.

“They won’t stop talking to you,” Fick said. “It happens maybe once a week to me.”

Fick said he has experienced panhandling while getting off the light rail at the Nicollet Mall stop and after 10 p.m. on Hennepin Avenue.

“I’ll give them my business card sometimes and say ‘they hire anyone’ if I feel like being mean,” Fick said.

Fick thinks panhandling is a problem in any city, but he doesn’t know what the city should do about it.

Terry Kreft, Nicollet Mall and 6th Street
Terry Kreft is a St. Paul resident who comes to work Downtown. She said she saw aggressive panhandling happen on Nicollet Mall as well as on light-rail paths. Kreft said she would dislike it if passive panhandlers were harassed, however. She doesn’t think panhandling is a big problem in Minneapolis “based on [her] limited experience.” Occasionally, Kreft will give panhandlers money, but sometimes she will simply continue walking.

Stacy Nekora, 6th Street and Marquette
Stacy Nekora, 33, is a Downtown office manager in a building on 6th Street. She said she saw some occasional swearing and shouting and even arguing matches when a passerby refused to give a panhandler money on Nicollet Mall. She hasn’t been personally aggressively panhandled, but she has “seen it more,” she said. She said some panhandlers will pretend like they are deaf for pity-donations and then respond to the comments of passersby. Sometimes, Nekora said, she will give money to panhandlers, but if she sees the same panhandlers day after day, she is less likely to give money to them. Nekora believes that panhandling is a problem for Minneapolis in light of the panhandling experiences she has had in other cities.

“Seattle is pretty laid back,” Nekora said. “You’ll see a lot of homeless people, but they don’t bother you.”

Nekora also said she was surprised she wasn’t panhandled as much in New York as in Minneapolis.

Peggy Hill, Nicollet Mall and 6th Street
Peggy Hill is a Brooklyn Center resident who often drives Downtown, where she finds herself staring at panhandlers while she waits at stoplights near freeway exit ramps.

She said the panhandlers holding signs at Downtown exit ramps sometimes aggressively panhandle.

“When they stare right into my vehicle, I consider it aggressive,” Hill said.

Sometimes she will give a dollar to panhandlers but never more than that, she said. Hill said panhandling could be a growing problem Downtown, especially if people keep giving panhandlers money.

“If people continually give money, they will stay at their spots,” Hill said.