Barrington GOP asks: Should town ban panhandling?

Council member says he would not support panhandling ordinance

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/16/20

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, residents and passersby noticed a person panhandling near the intersection of Rumstick Road and County.

The sight, a less than common occurrence in Barrington, left some …

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Barrington GOP asks: Should town ban panhandling?

Council member says he would not support panhandling ordinance

Posted

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, residents and passersby noticed a person panhandling near the intersection of Rumstick Road and County.

The sight, a less than common occurrence in Barrington, resulted in some phone calls to local police. It also left some people questioning whether the town should try to legislate a ban on panhandling. In fact, the Barrington Republican Town Committee created a poll on Facebook this week asking that exact question: "Do you think Barrington should have an ordinance banning panhandling?"

The initial response was heavily in favor of a new ordinance, but feedback has since evened out.

Barrington Town Council member Jacob Brier posted a response to the Facebook poll. At first, he wrote that he had reached out to Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha in an effort to provide the panhandler with information about Tap-In and EBCAP — two agencies that offer assistance to people in need in the East Bay. 

Mr. Brier later posted this comment: "I appreciate your consideration of helping the council evaluate ordinances to support the community. I agree we should be doing something to prevent panhandling, and I'll put more energy into seeking ways we can support those who are in need of assistance. If we do so effectively, there will be nobody in need of asking for a helping hand from the community. Thank you for making this an issue."

On Thursday morning, Mr. Brier clarified some of his thoughts on the issue. He said he had no appetite for creating legislation banning panhandling in Barrington.

"First, it resembles criminalizing homelessness and poverty, and is not how we should … support those of our neighbors who are in need of help," he wrote in an email to the Barrington Times. "It takes courage and humility to publicly ask for a handout. Nobody does it unless they need to. Second, it is likely unconstitutional, and the last thing our town needs is to create another reason to get into a legal battle... Especially when it would be a fight to allow the town to make the life of the least fortunate even less fortunate."

Mr. Brier rejected the idea that panhandling in town could have a negative impact on Barrington businesses. 

"There are a few reasons I don't share that concern, in our town. The person seeking help here apparently told a BPD (Barrington Police Department) officer that he came from Providence, because there are too many people asking there. For that reason, I think it's unlikely multiple people show up in town. We don't have the volume to support a widespread panhandling. The person was also told they could not solicit donations on private property. That will keep them out of the shopping plazas, and near other intersections; so people are unlikely to be accosted while shopping," Mr. Brier wrote.

Mr. Brier said people are likely to encounter panhandling in just about all communities, as many people are currently struggling financially. 

"And that's truly unfortunate -- not because it makes us uncomfortable to see, but because people in need, who are hurting, are everywhere," he wrote. "I keep protein bars in my car for just this reason, and if I see this person, or anybody, that's what I'll be handing out."

Editor's note: The Barrington GOP reportedly took down the Facebook poll on Thursday, Jan. 16. 

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