Homeless advocates don't think panhandling bans work

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Panhandlers have fewer spots to beg for money here in Yakima. City Council passed those tougher restrictions Tuesday night.

KIMA spoke with an advocate for the homeless with more than 30 years of experience. He's aware of laws that try to ban panhandling and feels they just don't work.

"Every once in a while, you get real lucky and somebody'll give you a 10, sometimes a 20," said a panhandler we'll call "Sarah" because she doesn't want to be identified.

It's a tough gig. "Sarah" said she got laid off. This is how she survives.

"A dollar an hour is really bad, but if you don't have an address, a phone number or something, how are you going to fill out a job application and get a job?" asked "Sarah."

Yakima City Council has now banned panhandling at more than two dozen intersections. They are spots that have a lot of accidents or a lot of traffic.

Homeless advocate Paul Boden said hundreds of cities have similar bans, but they don't stop the panhandling.

"They haven't worked anywhere else, so why is this pill suddenly going to become a magic pill and is going to work here?" said Western Regional Advocacy Project Director Paul Boden.

Boden said the ban might work temporarily, but only as long as police enforce it.

"As soon as you put your guard down, somebody - not the same people that are there today - but somebody's going to be back in that space," said Boden.

Boden thinks jobs, access to treatment and giving the homeless a place to live would do more to decrease panhandling.

"We need to look at cause and effect, and we need to understand why are so many people out there that's become this nuisance," he said. "And then let's address the why, not the people."

"It's embarrassing for me," said "Sarah." It's embarrassing: one, to have to beg; two, it's even more embarrassing that I don't have a criminal background and I'm being harassed by the police."

A spokesperson for the city of Yakima said donating to homeless organizations helps more than donating directly to panhandlers.

The ban on panhandling at the busiest intersections will take effect 30 days after the ordinance was adopted.