Three advocacy groups for the homeless – House of Hope CDC, Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project, and Help the Homeless – and the ACLU of Rhode Island emailed a letter to the West Warwick Town Council on Monday. The letter expresses concerns regarding a proposed resolution before the Council tomorrow evening that would authorize the display of signs at locations where panhandling occurs, encouraging passersby not to give money or other items to individuals who are panhandling.
While acknowledging and appreciating “the fact that the Council is eschewing more heavy-handed and unconstitutional approaches, like Cranston‘s attempt to ban panhandling” the letter says, “[p]lacing such signs would do nothing to address the reasons why individuals panhandle or improve public or motorist safety, and will cost the taxpayers money that could better be spent toward real solutions.”
The Resolution, sponsored by West Warwick Town Council President David Gosselin Jr, states, “The Town Council has received complaints and concerns by the citizens of the Town that such solicitation causes a feeling of insecurity and concern.”
The letter states that, “it is our experience that knowing people who panhandle as individuals relieves one’s feelings of insecurity. The feeling of concern is justified: we should be concerned that we do not have sufficient social will to provide a dignified quality of life for our most vulnerable residents.”
The resolution also states that, “The Town Council has determined that the location of Panhandlers on the highways and streets of the Town have an adverse effect on the traffic flow and the safety of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.”
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The letter asks the Town Council to “clarify the data used to make this assessment” adding, “When Cranston’s City Council considered its antipanhandling ordinance – which is currently stayed pending the outcome of the ACLU’s lawsuit against it – the Council cited traffic safety data that, when further studied, did not provide a single example of a traffic accident being caused by someone panhandling.”
The letter adds that “by advertising that panhandling rather than poverty is the problem, these signs can, however unintentionally, only encourage harassment of panhandlers and any individuals still willing to donate to them at those locations. In short, poverty, not panhandling, is the problem that needs to be addressed.”
The West Warwick Town Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 1170 Main Street, West Warwick, RI at 7pm, August 7, 2018.
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