Can a city prevent homeless people from panhandling in all public places?
No. A city cannot prevent individuals from panhandling in public places. A total ban on panhandling in public places has been ruled to be an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment free speech rights. The city currently requires a permit for solicitation which assists in addressing panhandling.
Can a city make being homeless illegal?
No. A city cannot make homelessness illegal. Laws cannot punish a status or condition of living as criminal conduct. Courts have ruled that vagrancy laws or laws that criminalize being homeless are an impermissible restriction on an individual’s right to travel. There are constitutional rights to consider when determining how to best address the homeless situation and the City is working to address the matter legally with a long term solution.
What has the city of Boerne been doing to address the homeless situation?
• Police are performing an interview to assess the situation of each homeless individual they contact, by complaint or voluntary encounter, in order to provide services to assist the individual.
• The Police Chief is meeting with non-profits that provide community assistance to discuss options for services.
• We are looking into options for mental health evaluations and possible emergency detentions should the situation warrant such action.
• We are looking at referring veterans to the Kendall County office of Veteran Affairs for assistance.
• Code Compliance department is looking into possible violations at local businesses and under local bridges in order to address problem areas.
• The City Attorney is looking at options to revise our ordinance to be more proactive but within constitutional constraints to allow police and code to address this matter.
What to give and not give
• Give bottled water and/or granola bar - Having a granola bar handy to give them can help provide a nutritious snack that is easy for them carry while they travel. The most practical item, bottled water, can also truly help replenish someone who is exhausted and trying to get back on their feet.
• Give money or gift cards - This doesn’t always need to be actual dollars or change. Sadly not everyone who you give money to will use it for your intention. If you decide to give money, know it is given without strings. Instead of change, carry around gift cards to healthy restaurants or grocery stores.
• Don’t give negative advice - Homelessness is extremely complex and can be emotionally and physically wearing on an individual. Statements of negativity such as “get a job” or “go away” do nothing but tear down and discourage someone.
• Don’t give excess items - An individual on the streets doesn’t have a storage closet to hold all of those extra shirts or jackets, they have only what they can carry. .
• Don’t give nothing - When you are suffering from homelessness, it can be lonely and exhausting. A smile or acknowledgement when you encounter them on the street or outside a place of business makes a big difference. Each person struggling with the cycle of homelessness and poverty faces days of hardship. Even if you are not able to give or provide assistance to them when they need it, they are still human.