Panhandling Dispute Headed to Mediation
Saturday, January, 5, 2019
An ongoing dispute over panhandling in the City of Joplin is headed to mediation. The city recently argued that the freedom of speech lawsuit filed against it regarding the issue should be dropped. The lawsuit arose after the City Council repealed the panhandling restriction prompting the claim, but the request for dismissal was rejected by a judge.
The judge noted the retraction of the panhandling ordinance in his response, but also stated the repeal does not remove the injuries suffered by the plaintiff, nor does it prevent enforcement of future similar restrictions.
The original lawsuit was filed by Christopher Snyder. Snyder is a homeless man who was forced out of the city with his wife when the ordinance went into effect. He had been living in his car since approximately 2016 and used the money he and his wife obtained from panhandling to meet their basic survival needs.
According to the ordinance, panhandlers must state 150 feet away from any major medians or intersections in the city. Those who support the ordinance claim it was put into place due to safety issues linked to the homeless asking for money in traffic.
When the ordinance went into effect, the city council was told the police department would first issue a warning to violators. The next step would be a ticket and then the violator would be arrested on the third offense.
Snyder, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed his lawsuit in April after the ordinance had been in effect less than two months. At the time the lawsuit was filed, Snyder had received the warning and the ticket for violating the ordinance and felt the need to leave the city to avoid being arrested.