New Frisco ordinance would ban aggressive panhandling
Sitting on a concrete curb between a Valero Corner Store and Lusher Court in Frisco, Kie Krueger carries a small cardboard sign that reads “Help” on the front. Several cars pass by before one man hurries over, handing him a bill.
“I don’t really like panhandling,” Krueger said. “I completely hate it. I feel stuck though.”
Spending most of his time between Denver and Boulder, he said he came up to Summit for the cool summers. The back of his sign reads, “note to self: rule your mouth,” a reference to a tendency to speak too candidly, which Krueger claims started 10 years ago after he was struck several times over the head with a beer bottle while asking for directions.
“Haven’t been the same ever since,” he said.
Faced with a new town ordinance restricting solicitations in some locations and banning “aggressive panhandling,” he said he understood some portions, such as restrictions to standing on a roadway median for safety purposes. But, he strongly disagreed with a portion of the ordinance asking panhandlers to keep more than 20 feet away from a bus stop or transit center.
“There’s no issue of safety, no disruption of commerce, no holding up traffic …” he said. “It definitely would affect me. Me and everyone else.”
The ordinance, which passed on first reading June 23, will be up for a second reading on Tuesday, July 14. Frisco spokeswoman Brodie Boilard said it was passed in light of the increase in solicitations throughout the town, some of which have become aggressive or hostile.
“It was just citizen complaints that some of it was aggressive,” Boilard said. “It’s case-by-case if the police are asked to intervene.”
The ordinance would ban “aggressive panhandling,” defined as following pedestrians, repeating demands despite refusal, using profanity or physical contact to cause intimidation, or intentionally blocking traffic. It would also restrict solicitations within 20 feet of an ATM, a public restroom, a bus stop, parking lot or a pay phone. Panhandling in public transportation would be forbidden, as well as standing on a median or blocking traffic or parking.
The penalty would be a ticket, according to Boilard, though the amount is yet to be determined.
“Every situation will be handled differently,” Boilard added. “It could be a warning. The cops could ask them to leave.”
STARTING FROM ZERO
While Summit generally sees few solicitors in the streets, more have trickled through the county in recent years. Robert Murphy, assistant director with the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC), said that many panhandlers in the area are passing through from Denver or other metropolitan areas.
“There has definitely been an increase. The homelessness problem in Denver has gotten worse,” Murphy said. “Services in Denver are being overwhelmed, and people are spreading out from the metro area and searching for other services. They’re trying to get help or find a place to exist.”
While the FIRC sees few passersby come through their doors, Murphy emphasized the organization’s focus on preventing homelessness among locals, who face the high cost of living in the county daily.
“We are one of the most expensive places for anyone to live in the state,” Murphy said, adding that the needed salary for an individual to meet living expenses comes in at $14 per hour.
“It’s a tough situation. There are standards that municipalities want to keep, and they want to make sure their laws and codes are enforced,” Murphy said. “But, I would hope that we would always include a healthy dose of compassion with that decision-making. … I think it’s a really difficult, humbling, embarrassing circumstance when people have to help in that way.”
Krueger said that while occasionally the people who stop are kind, several assume he would use the money for drugs or alcohol. But, he maintained that he does not use either.
“Most days, I’ll make barely enough to eat,” he said. Without a home, he often will “find a piece of dry concrete” for his bed.
“Some people say ‘I don’t wanna see those people there.’ You don’t even know why I’m here,” he added.
Before his injury, Krueger said he managed to get by working but has struggled to find a job since.
“I tell myself I’m not gonna fly a sign, but I can’t find a job,” he said. “What am I left with except a cardboard sign?”
While Summit has no emergency housing for the homeless, Murphy said that he often points panhandlers to emergency food services and other resources available in the area.
“I would try to give people an idea of that situation. A clear, honest idea of what the circumstances are in this community so they know what to expect,” Murphy said. “Everyone has stories, a background of life experiences and decisions they’ve made that have helped lead to that circumstance.”
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