Sioux Falls drivers probably see panhandlers every single day on their commute, waiting for an easy buck along the interstate off ramps. More and more panhandlers have been popping up in Sioux Falls recently, much to the dismay of law enforcement.
"If they don't interfere with traffic or they don't impede pedestrians, frankly there's not much we can do with them now." Said Police Chief Doug Barthel.
But the chief hopes that will change with a new ordinance, one that would make panhandling illegal. It wasn't hard for KSFY photojournalist Jeff Woods and myself to find someone panhandling. But this man wasn't too happy when our cameras approached.
Jeff: a city ordinance is trying to make it illegal for you to do that.
Man: none of your (expletive) business man!
Fran Stenberg is the director of the Sioux Falls Union Gospel Mission. He is completely on board with the department's proposal.
"We're very much opposed to panhandling for a lot of different reasons. It's spiritually not good, it's physically not good not only for the panhandler but for everyone around them. It enables them to do what they're desiring not to do." Said Stenberg.
The police chief says the ordinance is about keeping people off the road and out of harms way.
"This isn't an effort to get at people who might be in need because I fully realize there are plenty of people who could use the money or food." Said Chief Barthel.
Stenberg says there are more than enough resources for people to get help and back on their feet. Many just choose not to, like the man we spoke with. He didn't say much, but at least he was honest
Man: I'm a disabled alcoholic and I need to make money ok?
Jeff: Why don't you go to the shelter, why don't you go to the mission, or get a part time job?
Man: why don't you go (expletive) yourself!>
The number of panhandlers have been on the rise as nearby cities slowly force them out. While Sioux Falls could be next, Stenberg hopes there's also a solution.
"I wish I had the whole answer for this situation because it's not good for those out there panhandling." Said Stenberg.
For Sioux Falls, it's just a proposal at this point. Chief Barthel hopes to meet with the city public safety committee and present the idea before the city council by mid-September.
Sioux Falls hopes to join a growing trend of cities who have enacted pan-handling ordinances. Des Moines put in an ordinance to keep drivers and pedestrians safe by keeping pan-handlers off the roads. Minneapolis took their ordinance a step further by making pan-handling a misdemeanor offense. Fargo expanded their ordinance to cover the entire city earlier this month.