107.The County of Durham, NC says: No More Panhandling

3863077076.jpgAt the time of this writing, the city of Durham, North Carolina also known as the “City of Medicine” is calling for 2 to 4 inches of snow. This city/county is one of the leaders in its state and nation for its city size  in both Property and Violent Crime.

The County of Durham, North Carolina recently voted 4 to 1 against allowing panhandling outside the city limits of Durham, NC.  In covering the story, the Raleigh, NC News and Observer cited a homeless veteran that was struck by a bus and killed while panhandling as the impetus to this new measure. This incident happened four years ago…

Durham County Commissioner Lewis Cheek stated:  “It’s not to eliminate what some people call an eyesore,” Cheek said at a meeting of county and city officials last week. “This revolves around safety.”

Now for some reason after persecuting homeless individuals with a forced $20.00 panhandling permit fee inside the city limit of Durham was not enough, the county commissioners are going to prosecute the homeless for pan handling or soliciting donations county wide. Naturally this is not because the citizens are hypersensitive to the homeless panhandlers, they are saying they are more concerned for their homeless citizens’ safety.  They only intend to jail the homeless after the fourth offense.

The fact that the City of Durham’s permit is just persecuting the homeless and making life harder on those homeless who have nothing is discriminatory in itself. How is the homeless veteran without a job to raise the $20.00 for the City of Durham permit. That is just great thinking isn’t it? If he begged for the permit money, you have forced him or her to violate the law to become compliant with the law. I also am not sure that they considered the fact that making it against the law to pan handle in all of Durham County, that they are forcing the homeless that need to panhandle into the city limits? Since they elected the use of the word highway that can pertain to any road in the state.

I think it is pitiful that one of the penalties for panhandling now proposed is forcing substance abuse counseling. I understand that there is a high quotient of homeless out there that are substance abusers, but this is more a blanket indictment of all homeless as substance abusers.

Now it is January and they are calling for 2 to 4 inches of snow at the time of this article. These brilliant elected officials are taking money out of the pockets of homeless veterans. I am amazed that besides removing the means of some homeless veteran getting a room with heat out of the snow, or being able to afford a meal they just did not hose them down with ice water and just let them freeze outside in the cold. No where does it say besides eliminating pan handling county wide, what services the county will provide for the homeless to make up for making it illegal to beg.

Of course pan handling is dangerous. But I do not see them removing the newspaper sellers from the highway medians. The News and Observer from Raleigh, NC and the Herald Sun of Durham, NC are both for sale in the highway medians of Wake and Durham counties every Sunday morning as well as other counties of the the surrounding area. If this is a case of highway safety Durham County Commissioners, why was this issue not addressed? Is this not a safety issue as well?

Commissioner Cheek said that while he believes begging in the streets and highways is dangerous, it also damages Durham’s image.

I do think it looks terrible,” Cheek said. “I do think what it says about Durham, North Carolina, is that we don’t care enough about them to do something.”

Well undoubtedly Commissioner Cheek is doing something alright! Just not the right thing.

North Carolina General Statute NCGS 20-175(b), prohibits persons on roadways, shoulders, or medians from soliciting employment, business, or contributions from the driver or occupant of a vehicle if such action “impedes the normal movement of traffic on the public highways or streets.”   

Having lived and hitch hiked through Durham City and Durham County, that will eliminate, firefighters “Passing the Boot”, charitable organizations collecting, and the sales of newspapers from any public street medians. Since SAFETY is the issue here and the ordinance will have to be all encompassing to prevent violation of the homeless first amendment rights. It cannot be leveled just on panhandlers but every citizen and organization. Since collecting donations by anyone is a form of begging or collecting alms. Also all of the above mentioned groupings love using the same spots as the homeless do to panhandle.

Well I have not met yet any homeless veterans willing to throw themselves in front of moving vehicles for a dollar yet Mr. Cheek, so what is your real reason?



3 Responses to “107.The County of Durham, NC says: No More Panhandling”

  1. January 21, 2008 at 11:57 pm


    I didn’t realize that any city, county or state had more power than the U.S. Supreme Court, which by the way has determined that “panhandling” is protected under the 1st Amendment.

    I guess the next time I have problems with making sure that my constitutional rights are protected I’ll head out to Durham… NOT!

  2. 2 Jeff
    January 22, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Hey Wanderingvet, I’m unabashedly ashamed that you know more about my hometown area than I do. Thanks for enlightening me to this troubling situation. Here’s an update from the Raleigh News & Observer, dated 1/15/08:

    DURHAM – In five months, panhandlers on Durham County highways and at intersections will likely be breaking the law.

    County commissioners voted Monday 4-to-1 to outlaw all roadside solicitors outside city limits, whether they’re homeless, a registered charity or otherwise. Commissioner Michael Page cast the sole vote against the ordinance.

    County leaders must vote a second time on Jan. 28 to officially pass the new rule, which would go into effect July 1.

    Numerous people spoke both for and against the ordinance, which has been debated for nine months. Commissioner Lewis Cheek, who introduced the ordinance, said the law is a matter of safety for both solicitors and drivers, not a jab at solicitors. Several residents agreed with that view.

    Other residents spoke against the ordinance, saying it sends the wrong message to homeless panhandlers, many struggling with mental illness or addiction and who rely on the practice to survive.

    Cheek has said he hopes the county’s stand against panhandling will help the mentally ill or addicted seek treatment. He said he also hoped the proposed rule would spur the city to take the same measures.

    At least one City Council member has requested that the City Council revisit the issue on a future agenda, said Ellen Reckhow, commissioners chairwoman.

  3. 3 ginks
    March 31, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    There is a proposed ordinance in Iowa City that dictates rules and locations for flying a sign. Fines to be imposed for non-compliance. Looks like out on a limb is where street folks are being forced to stand.

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