ACLU Takes On Iowa Panhandling Ordinances
The ACLU of Iowa is demanding three cities repeal their panhandling ordinances saying they are a violation of free speech. The cities of Des Moines, Grimes and Council Bluffs all received letters objecting to their ordinances. This according to a story in the Quad City Times.
Locally, Bettendorf has an ordinance that bans panhandling within 100 feet of a controlled intersection; in a median or on the shoulder of a road. Additionally panhandlers must get licensed by the City. (There isn't a cost to get a license.) Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher told the Quad City Times the ordinance was motivated by trying to keep both solicitors and motorists safe; especially around the on and off ramps to Interstate 74.
The ACLU of Iowa didn't offer an opinion on Bettendorf's ordinance but says people should not have to get permit or license based on the content of their speech. In addition the ACLU argues that ordinances that regulate panhandling don't just violate free speech; they prolong homelessness by punishing people with fines and arrests when they're asking for help.
I don't personally have a problem with someone who needs a hand soliciting at a corner or in a median at a red light. My wife or I may even give the person a few dollars and hope they really need it and use it wisely. I think cities and communities don't need laws that make life harder for people. We need resources and outreach programs that help people find jobs, housing and help them lead a better life.
If you'd like to support any community resources that help people with food, clothing or homelessness; a good place to start is the United Way of the Quad Cities resources list. I'm sure many of the groups need either monetary or in kind donations or even a donation of your time. In addition, if you need services these agencies may be able to help you. Access the list here.