Begging on Rockford streets could soon land you behind bars. Rockford leaders are proposing a new rule, one that would mean a $750 fine for panhandlers on the first offense. And if they ignore the rules, they'll be charged with contempt of court.
"By having this ordinance, it allows us to have a legal waive but also socially gives us empowers us to make them unacceptable in society," says business owner Doc Slafkoski.
City leaders say this panhandling ordinance is not an anti-homeless campaign, and it's important to keep the two issues separate.
"We're not talking about homeless people or those down on their luck we're talking about people who are conniving, finagling, who know exactly what they're doing and are actually making a living at this," Slafkoski says.
Some worry that panhandlers are drawn to Rockford for it's social service programs. They say limiting the amount of handouts may help keep beggars off the streets... and out of Rockford. But others say it's better for an organization to help these people out, rather than you and I dig into our wallets.
"Let's not drive the social services out of town because they're the ones helping the poorest of the poor stay off the streets," says Stanley Campbell, the Director of Rockford Urban Ministries.
If the measure is passed, anti-panhandling signs may go up in storefronts, and a help hotline for panhandlers will be set up.
The Rockford Code and Regulations Committee will vote on the panhandling ordinance on September 11th. If passed, it could go into effect by the end of September.