Clark County working on anti-panhandling ordinance

An anti-panhandling ordinance is in the works in Clark County, July 10, 2014. (KOIN 6)
An anti-panhandling ordinance is in the works in Clark County, July 10, 2014. (KOIN 6)

CLARK COUNTY, Wash. (KOIN 6) — One sheriff’s deputy in Clark County said he believes new restrictions on panhandling would be an act of compassion not cruel.

Clark County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randon Walker showed KOIN 6 News the temporary living arrangements at a motel along Highway 99 that were made possible by money people gave to a panhandler who Walker knows as James.

“This is what kind-hearted, sweet, wonderful people are giving James. James isn’t buying water. James isn’t buying chicken soup or Gatorade. James is buying Steel Reserve,” said Walker.

Walker said he wants James in treatment for his alcohol addiction, but what’s getting in the way, he said, is the money James gets from panhandling every day.

“He’s not working and failing that, especially among our drug addicted, is theft,” said Walker.

Walker is helping with writing a Clark County anti-panhandling ordinance that would prevent panhandlers from stepping into off-ramps and streets to take money from passing cars.

The ordinance would also crackdown on aggressive panhandling, making it illegal for someone to keep asking for money after a passerby says “no.”

“If they do decide to give me a dollar, I thank them,” said one man panhandling on a busy Vancouver off-ramp Wednesday who did not want to be identified.

He told KOIN 6 News that he’s struggled with alcohol addition, has been in treatment and has been sober for several weeks. The man said he will buy cigarettes with the money he is offered, adding he has no sympathy for aggressive panhandling.

“People that badger other people for money – panhandlers – should be badgered because they’re bothering other people,” he said.

The new ordinance in the works may be controversial, but Walker said discouraging panhandling it’s mean, but instead, a compassionate act of trying to get alcohol and drug treatment for people who need it, he said.

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