A woman carrying a small dog approaches people near the vendors’ pad outside of Anderson Hall and asks for some spare change.
She isn’t asking for much, she just needs $3.
“I don’t use much of it,” she said.
“Most of it goes to [her dog] Scooby.”
Panhandling on Main Campus has been an issue for several years.
There are at least 10 panhandlers that frequent the area around the vendors’ pad, according to the owner of Ali’s Middle Eastern, Ali Ibrahim.
Ibrahim said he is extremely frustrated with the panhandlers who regularly congregate around his stand.
“If you don’t give them anything, they curse at you,” he said.
“I come here at 5:30 a.m. and they are already here.
If the police chase them away, they go around the building and come back.”
“It’s kind of annoying,” said junior Brad Gernat. “In college we don’t have that much money on us anyway.”
“If you are going to panhandle on the campus of a state school,” said senior Jason Lewis, “you aren’t going to get much money.”
However, not all students have noticed a problem.
“I’ve seen maybe one or two [panhandlers] the entire time I have been here,” said freshman Alexis Jeffcoat.
According to Temple Police Lieutenant Robert Lowell, the general policy on Main Campus is that if Temple police are notified of a panhandler, the offender is asked if they can be assisted in any manner, such as taken to a shelter.
If they decline, they are asked to leave.
“We are not insensitive to the needs of the homeless,” said Lowell.
“[But], people have a right not to be harassed on campus. We aren’t part of the [City of Philadelphia’s] aggressive panhandling law.”
The current law in the City is a three-step process.
If police are called on a complaint of aggressive panhandling, they must first inform the violator of the law.
Most of the time the offender backs off when told.
If not, the officer calls an outreach team, which is made up of counselors who inform offenders of city services that may be available to them.
If none of these measures works, the officer can issue a ticket.
“[The law is] ridiculous,” said an aide to John Hawkins, a legislative aide to City Councilman at-large Jim Kenney. “Panhandlers don’t pay tickets.
They don’t have credit cards. Most of the time they won’t even give the officer their real name.”
At a recent City Council meeting, Kenney, Councilman at-large David Cohen and West Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced three separate resolutions calling for hearings on Philadelphia’s panhandling law.
Hawkins said that Kenney believes the law should be changed so repeat offenders can be taken to court, where a judge can mandate drug and alcohol treatment.
Kenney introduced a bill to City Council last June outlining such a plan.
But the bill has languished in committee because of strong opposition in the Council.
Kenney’s resolution discussed the panhandling issues facing Center City businesses and the increase of “professional panhandlers,” who use children, signs or animals to assist them in soliciting money.
Many of the professional panhandlers congregate near Tower records at Broad and Chestnut Streets and further south on the Avenue of the Arts.
Although most panhandlers are homeless, professionals often appear cleaner than other panhandlers, and a few have admitted to not being homeless.
Blackwell’s solution is to repeal current panhandling laws.
She introduced a bill that would do just that in September.
In her resolution, she outlined plans in Vancouver, Cincinnati and Detroit that deal with the issue of panhandling.
According to her resolution, passive panhandling is legal in Cincinnati and police are discouraged from pursuing panhandlers in Detroit because so they can focus on higher-priority crimes.
Blackwell thinks Kenney’s bill penalizes homeless people, according to her legislative aide, Darwin Beauvais.
“Yes, there are professional panhandlers, but having a bill such as Kenney’s will not get rid of them,” said Beauvais.
“It will just start penalizing homeless people.”
Cohen’s resolution calls for looking into whether additional social services and health care benefits are needed to help panhandlers.
Cohen aide Tim Kearney said that the Cohen supports a person’s free speech rights to ask someone for spare change.
However, he said, “A panhandler can go too far and cross the line.”
“If you harass or assault somebody-physically block someone from going into a store, or from using an ATM-that’s crossing the line,” he said.
“Most people who panhandle don’t have it all together,” said Kearney.
“This is why councilman Cohen wants to address problems to do with mental health care, welfare and other social services. He wants to use more carrot and less stick.”
Sarah R. Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org