Moving forward to eliminate panhandling on Yakima streets

Moving forward to eliminate panhandling on Yakima streets
YAKIMA, Wash.-- Yakima is making another effort to get beggars to take their act somewhere else. City leaders have been mulling over ideas in response to public complaints. Education is the key to a new proposal to discourage panhandling.

Yakima city leaders have been trying for months to figure out how to get panhandlers out of town. The new plan starts with education to convince people to stop helping beggars.

"If the panhandlers stop receiving money, they will stop panhandling," said Joan Davenport with the City of Yakima. "Or, that's the theory."

Jeff Waite is a panhandler who's been following the debate in City Hall. He wants the city to recognize panhandlers are different. Some are aggressive and ask for money. And, others, like Jeff, passively hold up signs.

"Very laid back, you know, if you want to help you can, we don't bother anybody," Waite said.

Dropped from the plans are requiring panhandlers to wear vests or forcing them to register with the city. The second part of the plan would be new enforcement. The city's keeping a section of the initial proposal that would go after aggressive beggars.

Yelling or being confrontational could result in a misdemeanor arrest. A panhandler KIMA is calling 'Sarah' says the city can't punish them more than what they already see on the street.

"We've gotten hot water given to us to drink on hot days, we've had pennies thrown at us," Sarah said.

Instead of throwing money at panhandlers, Yakima wants you to consider dropping some change into six giving meters that would go downtown. Yakima plans to start spreading its message to "Be Part of the Solution" on the city's website and Facebook page. Sarah doesn't think she's part of the problem.

"We're not hurting anybody, we're standing here, we're not begging, we're not yelling at people to give us things," she said.

Yakima plans to start telling you not to give them anything. City council will vote on the latest proposals Tuesday in two separate ordinances. One will cover the giving meters and educational campaign. The other would change aggressive begging from an infraction to a misdemeanor.