Panhandling ordinance in effect starting today

SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane's new panhandling ordinance will go into effect on Saturday, making it illegal to beg on the curbside of some city streets. 

According to the ordinance, people can still use a sign asking for help. However, they cannot reach out into the street to collect cash from drivers.

Panhandlers say they aren't happy about it. "I think it's wrong. I think they should not. [Places like] minute lube and garage sales. [If] you guys fly the sign, we can too," panhandler Charlie said.

Panhandling ordinance in effect Saturday

Some of the panhandlers who "fly the sign" are truly down on their luck and are supplementing their income with the generosity of Spokane drivers.

But, we've also seen those curbside contributions converted into alcohol purchases that create a whole new set of issues including litter and a lot of anti-social behavior.

Customers at the Moxie Hair Salon have a front row seat on the problem.

"[I've seen] urination, public intoxication, you know. They come into the salon and bother out clients and we just don't need that," salon employee Christy McHatton said.

The businesses that border the panhandling hot spots said they've been counting the days for the ordinance to take effect. They said they will call police when they see violations.

"Yes we have to. Actually just because it affects our business. We have customers that do not want to come here because they know when they do they are going to get hit up by panhandlers," Dick's Hamburgers employee Jamie McBride said.

Merchants hope the new restrictions will dry out the profits panhandlers take in more ways than one. They are worried though, that the ordinance may just chase the problems to another part of the city.

"It think it will make a difference but not right away. But it will eventually make a difference," McBride said.

Police said they will respond, as their staffing allows, to reports of panhandling from the curb. Neighborhood Resource Officers will run through the downtown area and make sure all panhandlers are aware of the new restrictions and will then start writing misdemeanor tickets.