Public Hearing on “Aggressive Panhandling” February 11

The City of Concord is considering a municipal ordinance to ban “aggressive panhandling” in the city.  The current draft of this ordinance will be considered by the City Council during a public hearing on Monday, February 11 at 7 pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall. 

After careful review and discussion with colleagues, we have serious concerns that implementation of this ordinance will promote discrimination against homeless people in Concord. 

We encourage Concord residents to consider attending the public hearing and communicating with your City Council members to support constructive changes in the ordinance.

In the past two weeks, Maggie has spoken directly to the Mayor and several City Council members, as well as the City Attorney and the Chief of Police. In these conversations, we have explicitly asked that a narrower ordinance be drafted to specifically target the behaviors and actions that threaten public safety.  We also suggested that other concerns related to increased visibility of poverty on city streets be addressed within the writing the City’s Plan to End Homelessness, a process which is set to convene in early March.

Many of our concerns were articulated clearly in an “Our Turn” column in the February 6 Concord Monitor by Frank Irvine and Ellen Fries.  They wrote that “while the proposed ordinance purports to focus only on aggressive panhandling, it penalizes solicitations for money in specific places no matter how polite the person doing the solicitation is, or if the request is made by simply holding a sign.” 

“It seems cruel and pointless to drag [people] into court,” they continued, “because they miscalculated how their words would be perceived by the person they solicited.”

Concordis a compassionate community.  We have witnessed up close your ability to respond as volunteers and as people of faith to the urgent needs of homeless people for shelter and other resources.  We have every reason to believe that this same spirit can guideConcordto a more constructive response to concerns about panhandling.  We ask you to take some action in the next few days to encourage the City Council to support an alternative to the current draft ordinance.

In addition to attending the public hearing and communicating with Council members, you might also share your thoughts in a letter to the editor to the Concord Monitor.

Our message is clear:  Concord is a compassionate community. If the Council decides to address panhandling with an ordinance, it must be more narrowly written to avoid discrimination against poor people.  Concord can address these and related concerns in the Plan to End Homelessness. 

Feel free to be in touch with Maggie by phone (603) 988-7115) or email if you wish to discuss this further.