Panhandling: Time for stricter laws in Yakima?

YAKIMA, Wash. -- If you drive or walk around Yakima long enough, you are likely to come across panhandlers asking for money, food or something else.

It has reached a point now that city leaders want to take a closer look to see if they need to change the law. A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for next month.

We've all seen the cardboard signs. Yakima says people are getting tired of seeing them.

"They're on the corner that intersects our property with Walmart," said Yakima car dealership owner Bob Hall.

Hall says the panhandling nearby hurts his business and potential customers are concerned.

"We've had multiple calls from our customers and the public asking can you do something about it?" Hall said.

But, the panhandlers near Bob's business aren't breaking the law as long as they don't block traffic, harass anyone or keep people from walking by.

"It's day in and day out," said Hall.

Yakima now wants to document concerns like Bob's. It could lead to tougher regulations.

City attorneys tell Action News that panhandling laws have not changed in 15 years.

Yakima says simply finding it annoying isn't enough to make changes.

"Maybe they've decided to not get out of their car or go into a business," said Yakima city prosecutor Cynthia Martinez.

To get all sides, KIMA spoke with Carl Foran. He stands on the street holding a sign and says finding work isn't easy for him.

"The only time I do it is for my children when they're hungry," said Carl Foran.

"It's a real nuisance to us and a detriment to our business," said Hall.

While Carl worries changing the law could interfere with his rights, business owners like Bob want something done.

A public hearing to document the different complaints is scheduled for June 18th at 7 p.m.

That's pending final approval by city council Tuesday night.

Past efforts to tighten the restrictions have stalled.