The Eugene City Council listened to over 40 community members during a public hearing on a new panhandling ordinance last night. If passed, the city could start fining motorists $50 for handing out personal property, including money, to pedestrians on the street.
Council members Claire Syrett and Emily Semple said they wouldn't support the ordianance and Betty Taylor was the only member who voiced her support. Those supporting the new law said people asking for money cause unnecessary distractions, which could endanger both drivers and pedestrians.
Michael Carrigan, with Community Alliance of Lane County, says panhandlers are a symptom of a larger housing problem in Eugene. By criminalizing homelessness, he says, residents are ignoring the issue.
CARRIGAN: “People need to feel a little uncomfortable about seeing people on our street corners. These people are asking for help and they need our support. Homelessness is a reality, we need to deal with it, and deal with it right now.”
Carrigan says the city should focus on funding shelters and examine current laws that harm homeless people. Mayor Lucy Vinis tells KLCC the ordinance is only a draft and the public still has time to influence the outcome. She says a council vote is scheduled for April.