(Above) Chicago Loop Alliance Street Team Ambassadors assist a homeless Chicagoan during winter. Photo obtained from CLA.
23-May-15 Not all panhandlers are homeless and for some, panhandling is a lucrative career, says a downtown organization that has been assisting homeless Chicagoans since 2013.
While many who live and/or work in downtown Chicago complain about a seemingly increasing issue with panhandlers and the homeless, Chicago Loop Alliance has been doing something about it.
Last September, CLA produced a resource guide directing the homeless to food, shelter, health care, and possibly employment. According to CLA, the guide was based on thousands of personal interactions with the homeless by CLA street team ambassadors since October 2013.
According to CLA, its ambassadors have helped 17 homeless people get off the street and have made 5,800 referrals for services providing basic needs.
Last week, the non-profit organization, charged with making downtown a better place, produced a brochure for businesses and the general public, informing them about panhandling and how they can help.
It is part of a campaign called Change for the Better, that includes a website where donors can give to human services agencies. Many who panhandle suffer from drug or alcohol addiction and giving them spare change directly, says CLA, may only enable their addictions.
Many times, people give money out of an effort to pacify their own guilt without considering whether the gift is truly helpful, says the alliance.
Passive vs. aggressive panhandling
Chicago Loop Alliance divides panhandling into two types, passive and aggressive. Passive panhandling is soliciting without threat or menace, often without any words exchanged.
The panhandler can stand, sit, perform music or other street performances with a sign and a cup or hand held out.
Aggressive panhandling, however, is soliciting in a coercive manner, with actual or implied threats or menacing actions.
Although panhandling is legal actually a protected form of free speech it crosses a line when it becomes aggressive. In Chicago, panhandling is illegal
- Within 10-20 feet of a bus shelter or posted CTA bus stop sign.
- In any public transportation vehicle or facility.
- In a vehicle which is parked or stopped on a public street or alley.
- In a sidewalk café, restaurant, or gas station.
- Within 10-20 feet in any direction from an ATM, bank entrance, or currency exchange.
- While you are in line waiting to be admitted to a commercial establishment.
- When panhandling occurs in groups of two or more.
Panhandling is also illegal if the person asking for money touches you without your permission, blocks your path or the entrance to any building or vehicle, follows behind, ahead, or alongside when you are walking away, uses profane or abusive language before, during, or after soliciting, or makes any statement or gesture which makes you feel fearful.
Street performers and vendors with permits, CLA points out, are not panhandling.
CLA says businesses should call 911 to report aggressive panhandling but call CLA at 312-515-5376 to report a persistent problem on State Street between Lake Street and Congress Parkway.