Council to hear mayor’s proposal to curb panhandling in Baton Rouge

EBR mayor's office proposes two ordinances to reduce aggressive panhandling

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s office has proposed two ordinances aiming to stop aggressive panhandling in Baton Rouge.

The metro council will hear the two ordinances at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 11.

The first ordinance, titled “aggressive solicitation and harassment,” would penalize anyone harassing an individual or group of people for money. It sets out a list of parameters detailing what would be considered aggressive panhandling, including threats or demands for money that make an individual feel threatened, blocking any legal parking area or structure such that vehicles cannot enter or exit that parking area, following an individual or group of people, soliciting an individual while at an ATM, entering a private area or a neighborhood with the intent to solicit, or standing in a road to ask for money.

The second ordinance, entitled “obstruction of the sidewalk,” would penalize someone for blocking a sidewalk while panhandling.

Both ordinances exclude people who are homeless or peacefully panhandling.

"The intention here is certainly not to arrest our way out of a homeless situation,” said Rowdy Gaudet, a spokesman for the mayor’s office. “The intention is to direct them to some resources that are going to help uplift them to a better situation.”

If the ordinances are passed by the metro council, they would both carry a $25 fine or a sentence of 20 hours of community service. The second offense for both proposed ordinances would carry a $250 fine or a sentence of 60 hours of community service.

Those penalties can be waived if the courts determine the individual is actually homeless.

"This is not criminalizing homelessness, it's only helping people that need a place,” said Michael Acaldo, CEO of St. Vincent de Paul, a homeless shelter in Baton Rouge.

Acaldo says this ordinance focuses on compassion by getting those who are panhandling the help they need to end their homelessness.

"Our goal is to end homelessness and you do that by providing supportive services and housing quickly to people that are homeless,” Acaldo said.

Click here to read the ordinances.

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