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Posted on Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

Ordinance to expand limits on panhandling headed to Ann Arbor City Council for final approval

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor City Council voted 10-0 Monday night on changes to the city's solicitation ordinance to prohibit panhandling in more areas of the city, including in front of the downtown library and within 12 feet of a public alley.

The changes sponsored by Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, now go on to the council for second reading and final approval on April 19.


Gwyddion Storm, 42, solicits money from passers-by on Liberty Street. A native of Columbus, Ohio, he says he has hitchhiked all over the country but has been panhandling on the streets of downtown Ann Arbor since last summer.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The changes were recommended by the Mayor's Street Outreach Task Force. The new prohibition on panhandling within 12 feet of a public alley would apply to Ann Arbor's famous graffiti-laden alley off Liberty Street near the Michigan Theater, where panhandlers are a common sight.

Briere said street performers, including the musicians that often do their busking in alleys, will not be prohibited from performing their craft. She said busking is not considered panhandling.

The city's current solicitation ordinance already prohibits panhandling in specific areas, such as on public buses, inside or near parking structures, from a person in a vehicle, from customers in outdoor seating areas, within 12 feet of a bank or ATM, or within 12 feet of Nickels Arcade, the Galleria and the Pratt Building on Main Street.

The ordinance would continue to prohibit aggressive panhandling, which is described as moving within 2 feet of a person solicited; following and continuing to solicit a person who walks away; knowingly making a false or misleading representation when soliciting; soliciting in a manner that is intimidating or threatening; or obstructing the free passage of traffic.

Police Chief Barnett Jones said last summer that aggressive panhandling had become the No. 1 crime in Ann Arbor. The city reconvened a task force in September to look into the issue.

After six months of work, a 42-page report from the Mayor's Street Outreach Task Force was presented to the City Council recently.

The task force is requesting that the police chief and the city administrator refocus police attention in the downtown area, with targeted foot patrols during busy hours.

It also is recommending the launch of a community campaign called "Have a Heart, Give Smart," an effort to address what it found are often the root causes of panhandling and homelessness: substance abuse and mental illness.

The campaign will encourage people to stop giving their money to individuals on the street, potentially feeding drug and alcohol addictions, and to instead make donations to local human service agencies that provide help for those in need.

Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, was absent from Monday's meeting.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 6:08 p.m.

Why is it called panhandling and not begging?


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

There are people who would sneak up on me in one of the mall parking lots whenever I went there alone. I was surprised a couple of times and that was it. I took my business elsewhere. I like the buskers. Most of the ones I have seen are creative people demonstrating their art. I do not mind paying them for what they do, since I like art and like to support it. There are people who are homeless, including families with children. I've donated to these in the past and would rather my money go there than to a professional panhandler who is likely making more per hour than I make.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 11:50 p.m.

Panhandling seems to make a number of citizens who are financially secure or well-off feel uncomfortable. These folks typically desire not to be face-to-face with the kind of economic and social reality that's been developing within this country. We're slowly but steadily morphing into a Third World society, and panhandling reflects that truth in a way which is visible daily to folks with discretionary incomes -- who can otherwise blissfully tune out the downfall of the lower middle class.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Laptop sensitivity. The east side of Ann Arbor by Arborland has a panhandling problem. Meth addicts hang around Washtenaw Avenue begging. A lot has apparently been done to clean it up because it is not as bad as it used to be. Several residential neighborhoods lie just in back of the Washtenaw strip. Is this what you want for the children and citizens of Ann Arbor.? Let's not romanticize nor trivialize what is a real problem.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

It's interesting to see so much sympathy for the panhandlers but so little for the merchants who are trying to make a living in areas where panhandlers are abundant. I wonder how many of those who are ever so sympathetic have avoided approaching stores/restaurants/whatever that have panhandlers outside of them. How much business is lost to honest merchants trying to make a living because of panhandlers? An article was pubished in just a short time ago by a police officer who had a lot of experience with panhandlers. In her years as a police officer she had found a mere 2 (I believe) who were actually homeless. Many had jobs. It should have been eye-opening, but apparently not. So put your violins back in their boxes; all is not as it seems. Perhaps it is that you are so isolated from these persons that you have no idea what is really going on. Try living with them. The east side near Arborland has p

Boo Radley

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:53 p.m.

I hope they don't get too restrictive ... I can see my financial plan to supplement my retirement income in a few years going down the tube. I planned to set up outside of Zingerman's however and give the Main Street and campus areas a pass.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

I live in Ann Arbor and work Monday-Friday downtown, so I'm not here looking at "art" or eating ice cream (well sometimes) SOME of these people are frauds - we can see them from our office windows pulling out gobs of cash they cram in their pockets. FYI: just came back from Savannah where panhandling is prohibited. It was great to walk around and not be accosted!


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Panhandlers can earn between $30 to $40 an hour, according to a new study. In a report commissioned by the city of Spokane, Washington, researchers found that most panhandlers are not actually homeless. However, street beggars do frequently suffer from substance abuse problems, often have criminal records and rarely have (traditional) employment. They also found that a successful panhandler can make twice the hourly wage of the average American worker, who makes about $19 an hour. An Asylum study has found panhandlers are also much tanner than the typical office slave, and get to meet all kinds of new and interesting people each day. Just something to think about if you are considering a career change and have no shame. Reported 2008.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

Have always been an advocate for those who are actually down and out so to speak, have volunteered at homeless shelter and have shed a dollar or two. But after watching Peter Stossel's documentary on panhandlers, there appears to be many out there who are just too lazy to find a job and work --- it is so much easier to "plead" for help. Many in the documentary readily admitted to doing just that. It would be more helpful to get these folks to agencies where they could be helped -- if they really want it. I agree with the ordinance and hope the city will follow through with enforcing it.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 11:12 a.m.

Unfortunately I know from first hand experience that it's true that some are just plain lazy. I know someone who just didn't want to get a job. Always made excuses for not looking for work, he preferred to go out clubbing and sleep all day. To make money he sits at a street corner for a few hours a day begging for money. Of course, some panhandlers are unemployable because of illness, but the guy I know is unemployed because he has never tried to find real work.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 1:01 p.m.

So we'll be spending public money to ask people to ignore their best human instincts that tell them to respond when another human being asks for help. We are already an island of privilege as a town, now we are being asked to behave like little individual islands of privilege and selfishness. "Have a heart, give smart?" How about just "Have a heart?" We are meant to help each other, to talk to each other, and to show compassion for each other. I won't let anyone legislate away my humanity. My child and I stop and talk and listen to the people begging on the street. When I put money in their hand, I make sure that I hold their hand a minute so that they can feel like someone cares about them, even for a minute. It is humiliating work that they do, and we are all just a castrophe or two from being in their position. They are people begging for money, not "panhandlers."


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

i'll try again in a way that can't be seen as violating 'converstaion guidelines"... simply 'having a heart' without having a discerning eye and brain as to the very real scamming and 'panhandling' that goes on in many ( tho not all )of such cases is a poor life-lesson to pass on.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

It's not "work" that they do. That's precisely why they are begging from you.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

Obviously you are writing from the armchair and not personal experience on the street. Furthermore, giving somebody $ for a bottle of booze is not helping them in any sense of the word.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:41 a.m.

re racer's ( ironic) suggestion: crazier things have been tried. e.g. Baltimore's experiment, years ago, in confining drug dealers to a given area where they'd be ignored by the police ( commemorated on the great HBO series "THE WIRE" as "hamsterdam'). and of course the historic role of 'red light districts"... An ann arbor area "moocheville" or "panhandle ( but not the Texas one)" might run into some problems with the property owners there however.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:10 a.m.

Hey, I've got an idea! Lets create a special "Panhandlers Park" where anyone who wishes to Panhandle can freely do so while motorist, pedestrians, bicyclists, walkers, runners, students, children, moms, dads, grandparents, elected officals, non-elected officials, mayors, non-mayors, figurehead mayors, wannbe-mayors, council members, university officals...anyone ! can feely choose to give to Panhandlers in their special park. How about creating a traffic island with nice flowers, benches and throw buckets so not to inconvience motorist and they can just toss money from the luxury of their heated Subarus/Prius/Range Rovers seats. Problem solved! Who needs a dang ordiance and mayor committee? Grow up Ann Arbor. And to think growing up here in the 70's A2 was much more liberal, free wheeling and more socially aware. Sad to see my fair city becoming a right-wing Republican, ultra-conservative state where if you're not a certain social status you're not welcomed. Sad. Just simply sad. And really, are they that much of a problem? Let's all quote Nancy Reagan, "Just Say No"!


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:03 a.m.

Since they are easy to spot as you approach just ask them for money first. It works.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:45 a.m.

why not just prohibit panhandling altogether?


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:45 a.m.

"for those who have lived in or visited BIG cities, "panhandling" is par for the course" Funny, in the last week, I have visited Memphis and New Orleans and I have yet to be asked for any money. So, somehow they either get by, or just send them all to us, like our police chief did.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:58 a.m.

for those who have lived in or visited BIG cities, "panhandling" is par for the course. my policy is that you are free to ask for money, and i am free to say no. to date, i've found that respect and assertiveness has sufficed. legislation will not solve this.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:14 a.m.

in nyc, i shook hands with many homeless people - they are people just like "us". i rarely gave a dime, but if they wanted a moment of conversation, i'd give it, but no money. for those that think panhandling is a problem in A2, i don't see it. A2 panhandling is benign and sporadic at best, if you don't want to see it, then stay home, or move to the detroit burbs. potholes are a bigger nuisance in this community than panhandlers.

Gabe Miller

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:36 a.m.

There are people who succumb to lives of homelessness and "panhandling" because of mental illness, and these are victims without options. They haven't made a conscious choice to beg for a living, but are either unresponsive to medication or neglected and shunned by a society who'd rather not see them. That being said. A2 attracts a lot of random youngsters who arrive with some antiquated idea of A2 as a liberal, pot smoking, long haired, revolutionary enclave. This hasn't been true of A2 for two decades, of course, but these more aggressive panhandlers seeking to soak up handouts from a sympathetic populace can't accept it. These few are always barking in people's faces with demands, and they feel surprisingly entitled. and . Anyhow, for the truly mentally ill, lets think a little harder about a possible solution. These are suffering people. As for the able bodied crowds that have immigrated? Leave! Stop harassing people, stop trying to sell your crap on every corner, and go join a productive commune. It's ironic that some of the most severely mentally ill homeless people are the most harmless.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:41 p.m.

Yes those who succumb to circumstances not of their own making have my sympathy. Unfortunately those who med the bed they lay in and choose to wallow in this are ruining it for them.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

Wow, can I use you as a source? You obviously are speaking with authority with those facts. Wait a minute, your spouting opinion.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 1:02 a.m.

Phew! For a minute, I thought they were raising the donation minimums....


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:37 a.m.

Ban panhandlers who aren't really homeless who use crutches to get change on Main Street.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 11:43 p.m.

Panhandlers are people, just like everyone else. We should let them panhandle everywhere in the city.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:22 a.m.

touche. My hat is off to Joe.blow.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

Marshall, They should at least file under their income bracket. Given a recent foxnews report shows that they can make $100/day, they should pay taxes off their 32K/year income. Goofus, if I were a liberal I would say, "yes, anywhere but in my space." Instead I'll just say, my post was just playing with AA, make it illegal everywhere.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.

I nominate Joe Blow's doorstep as the first place to try out his new policy of letting panhandlers work city-wide wherever.

Marshall Applewhite

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:20 a.m.

If they are people just like everyone else, we should expect them to pay taxes on the panhandled money each year. Then, they might possibly be less of a drain on society.

Marshall Applewhite

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

Downtown panhandlers don't really bother me much, but I can definitely see a person with kids being deterred from visiting the downtown area because of them. Frankly, I'd much rather have more downtown business than panhandlers, so I agree with this ordinance.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:28 a.m.

kids in nyc see panhandlers all the time, and they're just fine. it really is a teachable moment, no need to shelter. it bothers the parents more than the kids.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 11:22 p.m.

i agree. just keep it simple and prohibit panhandling within 12 feet of any building. the give smart program is a great sounding initiative. i hope it happens.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

The number one reason I don't go to Greek Town in Detroit anymore are the panhandlers . They're just to aggressive and I don't feel safe bringing my family down there anymore . Good for A2 - better to nip this thing in the bud.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

Usually cities ban 'aggressive' panhandling and not 'passive' panhandling because passive panhandling is usually considered protected under the first's not likely a panhandler would be-able to afford a lawyer though. Usually it's aggressive pan handling that bothers people. I think this is overly broad.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:35 a.m.

agreed. a spine goes a long way, legislation will not bring utopia nor bubble. panhandling in a2 is NOTHING compared to the aggression of a big city. individuals need to stand up for themselves, city council cannot shelter anyone. "no" and an empathetic smile has worked for me thus far.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.

It's worth remembering that there are two sides to panhandling. One side is the 'charming' or 'touching' appeal presented by harmless looking & polite folks who just may be down on their luck. I saw one such man a few years ago as he went from litter can to litter can on Fourth searching for returnable bottles and cans. He was pretty well dressed and "presentable." So I followed him and caught up - handed him the small amount of cash I had. He thanked me and explained (plausibly) his situation and need for money. The other side is something entirely different and shouldn't be minimized or dismissed. I've been followed by men who walked close behind me for a block or two - staying out of my line of vision until "the right moment" to ask for money or a smoke. WHO can say what goes through the minds of such men, are they just "shy" or are they looking for a chance to grab what you're carrying (or knock you down and grab your wallet)? Less dangerous maybe but no less alarming are the panhandlers who politely ask for money but then become belligerent if you refuse. Again, there's no way to tell for sure if the belligerence is just a tactic or a prelude to an attack. One more thing: self defense experts say that, even if you're armed, letting a potential threat get closer than 20 feet means you have just 2 seconds total to react if the subject advances in a run. So the "12 foot safety distance" for panhandlers in Ann Arbor's ordinance is significantly short. Facile comments blaming and demeaning people who may become victims when they walk downtown are: just inversions of moral and logical sense. The problem is the people who actively try to take something that is not theirs from total strangers. The rule is: the initiator of force or fraud is the one to blame. That applies to any kind of force, any kind of fraud. Ban panhandling and make it a program which removes the threat.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

I am not suggesting that anybody shoot anybody (nor has anybody else). Getting away is the first reasonable action.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

Hoplophobe's go right to the "blow them away" when nothing of the sort was mentioned.

John B.

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

I guess you could just blow away anyone that gets within 12 feet of you and 'scares you.' You might then have some 'splainin' to do, though.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:11 p.m.

Never never have I had a panhandler ask me to send money to their paypal account. Really what century is it?


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

There's a fine line between some "busking" and intrusive noise pollution.....Boston has auditions for street musicians who get ,in effect, licensed to perform at various venues ( t- stops etc), and the result is often concert quality public performance rather than " yahoo with a bongo" or "3 chord wonder" noise. I wouldnt want to be a merchant with a no-talent "busker" droning on outside my door for hours on end. Perhaps subsidized actual performance classes for would -be street performers, plus that auditioning stipulation, could be a win -win public service, absent the presence of the New England Conservatory/Berklee school/ Longy school performers who often seem to make up the skilled ranks of the boston street performers. But in any case, good on city council for cracking down a bit .


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 1:59 a.m.

Good thing our Micheal Jackson blasting street performer dude is awesome.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:50 p.m.

atticus..noise pollution, especially non-essential and for one person's gain, can be a real irritant. e.g. a snowmobile is more annoying than a fire-engine because it's gratuitous and selfish. ditto untalented street performers one is forced to listen to for sustained periods, as one would if one were a merchant "blessed' with such a performer outside. Try taking off your halo once in awhile.

Atticus F.

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

The solution is simple...If you like the performance, then give them money. If you dont like the performance, dont give them money. As far as the merchants input on what goes on on a public sidewalk...more than likely, they knew about the homeless population in Ann Arbor long before they opened their business. And if they dont like it, they are free to set up shop somewhere else. Perhaps they would do a brisk business in downtown Milan...The homeless population is less prevalent there.

Atticus F.

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

I donate both my time and money to charities that help the homeless. As well as giving cash to street people. And if a pouch of tobacco, or a sip of wiskey is the only thing that brings pleasure to someone in misery, so be it. I don't judge.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:45 p.m.

Let me suggest that the judgement about giving to support vices (or addictions) is not the point. The point is: giving through established sources helps ensure the proper aspect of charity to the needy while avoiding: the risk created to oneself AND others if handing money directly to strangers becomes the norm. As one who is licensed to carry a defensive firearm, I am among the growing number who dread having to shoot some attacker who has come at me under the guise of "panhandler." Shooting another person is the last - dreaded -resort; a resort which is less likely to be faced if panhandling is banned. The more sympathetic side is: I don't want to see these panhandlers risking themselves, either. I appreciate your sincerity: I just think you've generalized your moral stance before taking a close enough look at potential "side effects."

Atticus F.

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

You absolutly have that right Ricebrnr. As do I have the right to give without judgement. I'm just happy to hear that you would consider giving for the reasons you seem fit.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

If I donate money to someone, I'd want it to be for necessities (food and shelter) NOT vices (tobacco and alcohol). Geez I figure my donation buys me the right to judge. But it must just be me, I'm hard hearted for not enabling vices...


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

I am glad we aren't prohibiting busking. I really enjoy street performers. As for panhandling, and important step is to get at the underlying issues. Treat the disease not the symptom. Why are there more panhandlers? Why are they more aggressive? What can we do to make it so that this isn't the case? I don't fool myself into thinking I have the answers or solutions. I just hope that we can approach this in a thoughtful way and not just jump to conclusions. It sounds like this new ordinance is fairly reasonable and hopefully City Council will continue to think about this in a top to bottom way.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:32 a.m.

mimes are quiet, at least

Moscow On The Huron

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

Street performers are OK, in general, but I draw the line at mimes.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

Could it be that there is more panhandling in AA because there is more poverty? As for me I often give money to street people. After all their discretionary incomes are generally limited and if they need a little extra for pop tarts or other forms of self medication so what? Their needs are hardly different than 90% of the rest of the people in Ann Arbor. Should the poor really be held to a different standard than the rest of us? I don't believe in moral police or that poverty should be a crime even though both circumstances seem increasingly the case in America today.

Rod Johnson

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 10:57 p.m.

Oh man, I can't believe you played the pop tart card.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

Just keep it simple and prohibit panhandling 12-feet from any building.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

I think this "Have a Heart, Give Smart" program sounds like a great idea. It addresses the reasons why I never give to panhandlers. I'm not a heartless person, I just understand that we live in a society where we cannot trust people just because they say they are trustworthy. I want to give real help, not be an enabler.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

I am outraged that more of you don't take these people into your homes and do more to prevent them from interfering with all of us heartless people who enjoy tacky art and ice cream. For all the complaining about restrictions on panhandling, I don't see any action from you. Do something. Adopt a vet. Make sure he's getting health care. Give him money - maybe have him take care of your kids while you're out saving the world. Just stop complaining about our complaints about not wanting to have to deal with abuse when all we want is a peaceful opportunity to buy uncomfortable boutique furniture.

Atticus F.

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 9 p.m.

No one can be expected to take a homeless stanger into their homes. Thats why we need to help these people collectively as a society.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

There are services available. Ann Arbor does more than most. The people you see panhandling are rejecting these services. They are free to do so, obviously, but when they infringe on others' rights - which is all this ordinance addresses - limits need to be in place. Since you feel these needs are more important than our rights, perhaps you need to step up and meet their needs yourself. I don't want homeless people dying alone in the woods. At the same time, there's only so much we can do for people who simply don't want to play by the rules. In a civilized society, we need some rules. We also have people who are neither homeless nor mentally ill behaving aggressively in public. Some of these rules give the police the ability to control their behavior to an extent.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

The onus of this is not on me to "adopt a vet" (that's a bit patronizing anyhow, isn't it?-who says homeless means that they want to be housed? - but i really don't expect any of you to understand that, moving on). The onus is on the city to not push the homeless off to the exits of major highways and on others in this city to stop moaning about their inability to handle urban poverty like grown ups.


Tue, Apr 5, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

To all the NIMBYs (and I know there are quite a few of you here and certainly in City Council), if you are of the mentality that you can't go downtown and buy your ice creams and your tacky art and your uncomfortable boutique furniture because you're afraid of running into a homeless person asking for money, maybe that's your problem and not theirs.