No Fines yet for CR Panhandling Ordinance

You might be able to find Gary Clemons out on Blairs Ferry Road any day of the week, braving the cold and snow to ask for money — at least for now.

Clemons said his doctor won't allow him to work, and he has to panhandle for everything he has, including to pay his rent and bills.He sees a Cedar Rapids ordinance that limits panhandling as an effort to chase him away.

"They need to quit trying to get us to give it up," he said.

Clemons has panhandled for three years. After the ordinance took effect in 2017, police forced him to move spots.

What Gary does is perfectly legal, according to City Council Member Scott Olson, who led the push to limit panhandling.

In the 16 months since the ordinance went into effect, officers have not issued a single fine or ticket for people who have violated it.

Police said that's because the message got out, especially during a 30-warning period before the ordinance went into effect.

Instead, officers and volunteers have 10,000 wallet-sized cards to give to panhandlers, filled with the names of local organizations and their phone numbers.

But Clemons said panhandling is what works for him, adding that others shouldn't judge him for it.

Olson was quick to point out that the city does not ban panhandling, something that courts have struck down in the past. Instead, he said this ordinance is limited and focused on public safety.