(INDIANAPOLIS) — Legislators are making a second stab at controlling panhandling in Indianapolis.
Legislators voted last year to ban panhandling near businesses or parking meters. That essentially outlawed panhandling anywhere in downtown Indianapolis, and a federal court ruled it unconstitutional.
Indianapolis Representative Justin Moed’s (D) bill tries instead to draw a line between panhandling and harassment. Someone who keeps pestering you when you’ve already said no, or who acts in a threatening manner, could be charged with harassment and face up to three months in jail.
Moed argues punishing behavior, not speech, should be a standard everyone can agree on, and should fix the constitutional concerns which sank last year’s law. Moed’s district includes downtown Indy — he says restaurants and hotels have described aggressive panhandling as a continual problem that’s discouraging people from coming downtown.
The House passed the bill 92-2. It’s awaiting a hearing in the Senate.
The bill would also create a 13-member task force of state and local officials and Indianapolis community leaders to study what it would cost to build a “low-barrier” homeless shelter in Indy, one which lets anyone in without requirements like drug and alcohol tests. Bloomington opened a low-barrier shelter in January, and Moed says Fort Wayne and Evansville have expressed interest in the idea. The task force would also assess what federal funding would be available to help shelter residents address addiction, mental health, or other issues preventing them from getting back on their feet.
The bill would also plug a hole in Indiana’s trespassing law to cover abandoned buildings which have been condemned as unsafe.