Snohomish residents complain of increase in panhandlers
SNOHOMISH — The city may act soon on dissuading panhandling after residents began raising concerns.
“I find it very disheartening to see them panhandling for money in our city corners when we have facilities that are available,” longtime resident Darren Barstad said.
Another resident pointed to anti-panhandling efforts elsewhere in Snohomish County where people are asked to support charities instead of handing change to people on street corners.
The idea, called “keep the change” was sparked by a Vancouver, Wash. woman’s efforts.
Arlington, one of the cities where the program was implemented, argues in city literature that giving to panhandlers most likely doesn’t help them, but funds addictions to drugs or alcohol.
Resident Micah Nehring said he volunteers at the Snohomish food bank, and that it’s “very frustrating” to tell them about the food bank and they use “every excuse in the book to not come in – ‘they’re not open, I need a city ID,’ et cetera.”
Less than a block from the food bank, there’s a popular panhandling spot at the five-way intersection of Avenue D and 15th Street that invariably has panhandlers at both corners every good weather day.
The intersection is slated to be converted into a roundabout, and people are concerned where panhandlers will move to.
“The problem may be alleviated at the new roundabout, but we still have other entrances into town,” Barstad said. “When you’re trying to (promote) a tourist-type environment here, I think that (the presence of panhandlers) speaks poorly of our city.”
The state Department of Transportation clamped down on panhandlers at the U.S. 2 offramp at Second Street/88th Street a few years ago, and new U.S. 2 onramps at Bickford Avenue dissuaded panhandlers away because nobody was stopped waiting to get onto U.S. 2.
Resident Janet Zwar said there was a concentrated large number of panhandlers near her part of the city, Dutch Hill, and that they were also “very aggressive.”
Zwar asked the city if there was anything that could be done to prevent it. She asked about anti-panhandling (giving to them) signage, or police warnings.
“I just want them to move on from Snohomish,” she said. “They’re very aggressive.”
City attorney Grant Weed, who wrote Marysville’s “keep the change” anti-panhandling ordinance, said that there are a few challenges with this topic that citizens will need to understand.
Weed defined aggressive panhandling and how sometimes “it’s hard for citizens to understand.” If an panhandler obstructs with people’s right to move along the sidewalks, obstructs the movement of vehicular traffic, makes aggressive movements or intimidates people, “in those kinds of activities are what the law allows us to regulate” he said. “But a person that’s standing on a street corner passively holding a sign and not doing those aggressive type of activities is lawful.”
The City Council plans to look into the issue and may decide to deploy no-panhandling signs at street corners.