Panhandling ordinance passed by City of Charleston

CHARLESTON, SC – Changes on the way to the City of Charleston, it will soon be illegal to pass anything to or from a car while in the traffic lane. The city passed a new panhandling ordinance Tuesday night that will go into effect September 18. On that day, if you’re caught panhandling, you’ll be given a ticket of up to about $1,100, or you could face 30 days in jail.

News 2 went out into the community today to find out how people feel about this new ordinance. One man who was asking for money along East Bay Street says he’s been out there for six months and every day people help him out.

He says, “Everyday.”

News 2 asked, “What do people usually give you? Is it money?”

He says, “Money, breakfast—food, personal items.”

But soon that will change. Next month, people will no longer be allowed to hand items out their car windows. Law enforcement says it’s a safety concern.

Charleston Police Department Spokesman, Charles Francis, says, “You have people out there, you know, handing people items from the car or going into traffic to get the items, so instead of having someone get hit or having an accident, you can just pull into the parking lot or whatever and just give them whatever you want to give them.”

News 2 asked people downtown what they think, and some of them agree.

Maureen Joseph says, “Because I don’t like them bothering me.”

Rodney Sapini says, “Yeah, I say it’s a good idea, yes.”

But others say they don’t see the harm.

Mollie Joseph says, “If you want to give your money to someone then why not?”

Stacey Sarnicola says, “If you, you know, you really feel in your heart you want to give money, you shouldn’t be penalized for that.”

Most people told us they think the $1,100 fine is excessive.

Mollie Joseph says, “It’s kind of an intense penalty. I don’t know, I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Jim Zearfoss says, “I’m not too sure that the person in the car should be the one being punished, and if you’re going to have an ordinance you should have prevention of the panhandling, which would be the person who’s doing it. I don’t know that it’s fair to give a homeless person a $1,000 fine, I don’t know who would gain from that, but the point being they’re the person I think is in the wrong, not the person giving the donation.”

While others say the fear of a steep fine is the only way to stop the problem.

Rodney Sapini says, “If making it $1,000 will stop people from doing it, I guess it’s a good idea.”

People also expressed concern that this ordinance won’t help the homeless problem and say it is just sweeping it under the rug.

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