Residents in Wichita, Kansas hope to stop new ordinance targeting panhandling
People plan on showing their disapproval of the new ordinance at Tuesday’s city council meeting
Under the new ordinance both panhandlers and motorists could face up to a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail
Christopher Parisho is one of many whom is speaking out against the new ordinance
Just days ago, the Wichita City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that threatens a hefty fine and possible jail time for giving roadside panhandlers money. The City Council claims this is to reduce the chance of car accidents, among other reasons.
With the new ordinance, what used to be a $20 fine could carry up to a $500 and up to thirty days in jail. Wichita Police Deputy Chief Troy Livingston said he expects officers first to give educational warnings, then tickets, then the possibility of jail time for repeat offenders. It should be noted the decision of fine and jail time will be made by a judge, not Livingston.
Not everybody was as excited as the Wichita City Council about the ordinance. A significant amount of people have shown disapproval of the ordinance, and now a protest is planned at next weeks city council meeting.
A Facebook event started by Christopher Parisho is intended to get people to attend the city council meeting on Tuesday, December 19, at 9:00 am to speak out against the new ordinance. The Daily Haze reached out to Parisho to find out more about the “Panhandler Ordinance Protest.”
TDH – What made you want to start a protest against this ordinance?
Christopher Parisho – I’m part of a group that’s trying to find ways to help solve the homeless issue. We are doing an event on the 21st at city hall to help bring attention to the problem. When this came up and I saw the increased penalty and that it can apply to people giving to them too, I decided to do something to try and stop it.
Local reporters covering the story failed to report that this isn’t set to be law until its read into the record a second time. And when I saw people outraged at the new ordinance I thought I’d tell them there is a way to try to stop it, if city leaders listen. I started spreading the word about the second reading in posts, then made it an event so people could join and have a reminder.
TDH – So you hope to stop the ordinance before it takes effect?
Christopher Parisho – I hope to. I’m skeptical because I know the city leaders tend not to listen to the concerns of the people unless they suit their agenda.
At the very least reduce the criminal penalty back down to where it was for the old ordinance.
TDH – Besides the obvious, is there any other concerns if the ordinance goes into effect?
Christopher Parisho – The way it’s written I think is vague and could be used in other ways besides trying to stop panhandling.
People who just want to help could get punished too, which discourages people from trying to help others which isn’t the message I think we should be giving society. I would rather find ways to get those who want to help to go through some of the charities that are already established to do so.
TDH – The city council claimed the new ordinance is to reduce accidents, do you see that being the case?
Christopher Parisho – Maybe a little but I really haven’t noticed a big issue with regard to accidents caused by panhandlers. What I’ve seen firsthand is traffic gets held up as a panhandler tries to walk through stopped cars or someone who is trying to give a donation takes a few extra moments to do so and slows down traffic behind them.
I do remember there being a report of a fight between two different panhandlers back in May. They were fighting over who got to stand on the corner. That’s the worst thing I’ve heard of with regard to the panhandler problem, besides some of them being rude or not really being homeless and just using it as a way to make easy money without having to work.
TDH – Can you tell us a little bit about the group you are in?
Christopher Parisho – Sure. We formed after the public meetings for the planed changed to Naftzger Park. Our focus, like I said before, is to try and find ways to help the homeless in our community and inform or educate the non-homeless about the issues and needs of the homeless.
(Allen Stoker, Durell S Gilmore, and Laura Dungan are part of the homeless outreach group with Parisho.)
TDH – Is there anything else you would like people to know about going on?
Christopher Parisho – I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to show up Tuesday and speak out. Citizen input is what is vital to make sure our government doesn’t overstep its bounds.
I’d also like to invite people to the Homeless Night Out on the 21st to meet people and learn about the plight the homeless face. They’re the ones who know best what’s needed to help reduce the number of homeless in our community, so we should have their input on what the solutions need to be.