UPDATE: City of Fresno rejects proposal to make passing food, money to panhandlers illegal

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- UPDATE - Giving money, food to pandhandlers is still legal in Fresno. The city of Fresno ordinance to make it illegal to give to panhandlers within 200 yards of an intersection has been rejected in a 3-2 vote, with Luis Chavez abstaining.



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Corners at major intersections along Blackstone Avenue are popular places for panhandlers to solicit money from passing cars.

Rick Baker is one of those who stands with a sign, hoping for a donation.

"I do this so I can eat. You know I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I do nothing I just want to eat," he said.

But Fresno City Council member Steve Brandau sees what Rick and others do as a problem.

"A lot of times you see pedestrians going out in traffic, soliciting money and food, from drivers and its time to put an end to that," he said.

Brandau is proposing an ordinance to stop anyone in a car from giving money or food to anyone standing within 200 yards of an intersection.

"It gives the driver a ticket if they pass food or any object to a person standing on the sidewalk," he said.

Brandau says his goal is safety to keep the panhandlers from getting hit and to avoid fender benders caused by drivers who stop to give.

But Council member Esmerelda Soria told Action News by phone she does not support the ordinance.

"I believe its a bandaid approach to the bigger issue that we have... the issue of poverty, homelessness, mental health, drug addiction," she said.

Soria says the city has just received millions of dollars in state money to deal with those issues and feels once programs are rolling, there will be fewer panhandlers on the streets.

We asked drivers what they think of the proposed donation ban.

"I think it will help a little bit, but it won't solve the problem," one driver said.

"Well I don't know, kind of takes away your right to choose," another said.

What does Rick Baker think?

"Oh, that's terrible, but I will have to go with the law, the law is the law, I can't change it," he said.

The fine for giving a panhandler anything from a car would be $75.

The anti-panhandling ordinance will be considered by the city council on Thursday. If approved it will be in effect for just one year, and then reviewed.
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