Local businesses react to new panhandling ordinance

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - An ordinance prohibiting aggressive panhandling in downtown Boise has spurred strong reaction from both supporters and opponents.

The Downtown Boise Association voiced their support of the ordinance Wednesday, saying it has taken a lot of work from a lot of people to make this ordinance happen.

Executive Director Karen Sander said she has been working with downtown business and property owners for years, filing their complaints about panhandlers to the city council and to police.

"A lot of business owners and property owners have worked really really hard to make downtown a very vibrant business center," Sander said. "Aggressive panhandling is something that is a really big negative for attracting and keeping business down here."

The ordinance passed through the Boise City Council Tuesday night with a 3-1 vote, and makes it illegal for panhandlers to solicit near ATM's, public roadways, and outdoor restaurants beginning January 1, 2014.

"I think it's a great first step in understanding the needs of businesses and attracting people to this community," Sander said.

Now that the ordinance has passed, Sander said she expects many business owners to be pleased.

Fete Style Bar, a salon located on the corner of 8th and Main St. downtown, has scissored its way into one of downtown's hot spots. The owners say the area has been great for walk-ins, but that panhandlers often greet their customers as well.

"We see them a lot," stylist and partner Amy Hamilton said. "They're frequently out front. It's uncomfortable for our clients I think because when they leave the salon they're looking directly at them."

Hamilton said she believes this ordinance will help business owners like herself, but that she's still sympathetic to the homeless.

"My personal feeling is that I don't blame them but at the same time I'm not positive that the city making an ordinance like that is helping the homeless. I think their time would be better spent figuring out a solution to help the people who are actually struggling."