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Homeless Group Sues to Overturn Panhandling Ban
Representatives for the group Homeless United for Change plan to sue the city of Springfield. They claim the city's ban on panhandling is unconstitutional.
Don Norton and Karen Otterson are planning to file a lawsuit challenging the Springfield ordinance that bans panhandling in the downtown area. The section of municipal code prohibits individuals from vocal appeals or requests for immediate donations.
They say that's a violation of their First Amendment rights.
"But tourists and people who live in Springfield do not want to come downtown--whether it's a cigarette or a dollar, they don't want to get panhandled," Recycled Records co-owner Mark Kessler said.
Kessler and his brother have operated Recycled Records for 35 years, long before the ordinance was in place.
"I think it was a problem before that and I think the ordinance has done some good," Kessler said. "I really do. I mean, I don't have as many complaints anymore."
Ron Bormida is a frequent shopper there. He agrees with the ban as well.
"Well I think it's good," Bormida said. "Because it's like if I wanted to help somebody and they would actually use the help, that would be different. But I don't think that's happening."
He believes panhandling has a definite effect on visitors to the area.
"Well, it scares people that aren't from around here," Bormida said.
Bonnie McGee and her husband are here from St. Louis to visit the Lincoln sites, and she's glad the ordinance is in place.
"I think it's fine," McGee said. "I don't want to see the homeless people around."
And she thinks panhandling might scare off other tourists.
"If they were here, yeah," McGee said. "I would not want to come around if they were here."
But several homeless individuals waiting outside the Breadline tell us they think the ordinance is wrong.
"As far as panhandling, they ought to let that go, 'cause sooner or later it's gonna wear out," one said. "But some of these people have got it that bad."
"No," answered another. "If I ask you for something man, and you help me out because I'm homeless, we trying to stop homeless right?"
Attorneys filing the lawsuit tell us they are still finalizing the details of the suit, and plan to file it electronically tonight.
We also reached out to city representatives. Spokesman Nathan Mihelich failed to get back to us in time for this story.
We also spoke with Springfield Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher. He said he gathered complete data on the number of citations written under the ordinance since 2008, and that he gave them to Mihelich, who hasn't sent them to us.
Reporting in Springfield, Mike Brooks, ABC NewsChannel 20.