Clark County changes panhandling rules

New panhandling rules may be enforced by the end of the year

A panhandler's sign. (KOIN 6 News, file)
A panhandler's sign. (KOIN 6 News, file)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN 6) — Leaders in Clark County agreed to sweeping changes in the panhandling laws, though it was whittled down considerably.

The ordinance passed Tuesday by the Clark County commissioners only prevents panhandlers seeking money from drivers, but does not affect firefighters who annually fundraise for Muscular Dystrophy in their Fill The Boot campaign.

A man who said his name is Cheese Whiz, panhandling at the I-5 off-ramp at Mill Plain in downtown Vancouver, got a warm blanket from a passing driver.

When he was asked what other panhandlers do with the money they collect at the freeway ramps, he answered directly.

“A lot of them, I hate to say it, but in reality a lot of it goes to drugs and alcohol,” Cheese Whiz said.

That’s exactly what Clark County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randon Walker told KOIN 6 News in July. At that time, Walker showed KOIN 6 News how the money panhandlers collected standing on freeway ramps and other car-centered areas helps them sustain their addictions and prevents them from getting treatment.

But Cheese Whiz said if people are prohibited from panhandling, “They’ll go to stealing and then you’re right there with another situation on your hands.”

Sgt. Walker said that’s actually what deputies expect to happen.  But then a judge can make those panhandlers either got to jail or get help with their drug and alcohol addictions.

The new panhandling ordinance will go into effect through a rollout period where deputies will let panhandlers know it won’t be allowed anymore.

It may begin to be enforced by the end of the year.

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