Poor people sue the City of Greensboro alleging panhandling law is unconstitutional

*For Immediate Release: ***

*Poor People Sue the City of Greensboro over Unconstitutional and Cruel
Panhandling Law*

*Press Contact:*
Marcus Hyde
homelessunionGSO@gmail.com <mailto:homelessunionGSO@gmail.com>

*                       Press Conference: *August 8^th  – 2:30 PM

*Where: *Legal Aid of North Carolina Office

122 N Elm St #700

Greensboro, NC 27401

*           Who: *ACLU of North Carolina, Legal Aid of North Carolina,
and the Homeless Union of Greensboro

*August 8^th , 2018 – *Three people who have experienced homelessness,
and**The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, have filed a
federal lawsuit seeking to block a Greensboro ordinance that
criminalizes “aggressive” panhandling and many activities protected by
the First Amendment.

The plaintiffs are being represented by the American Civil Liberties
(ACLU) of North Carolina, Legal Aid of North Carolina and the National
Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. The groups say that Greensboro’s
ordinance violates the free speech, equal protection, and due process
rights of people who ask for contributions in public places in the city.

*“We all agree that no one wants to see people begging for help, but the
answer is to remove their need to beg, not to punish them for
asking,”* said Eric Tars, senior attorney at the National Law Center on
Homelessness & Poverty, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“We told the city council that 100 percent of similar ordinances have
been struck down by courts—25 of 25 since 2015. Greensboro residents who
want to see something done about panhandling should be outraged that,
rather than implementing housing strategies that work, their
Councilmembers are wasting time and resources passing unconstitutional
laws that don’t.”

The Homeless Union of Greensboro first challenged the city to repeal its
panhandling laws in February. After months of debate, the council voted
to replace its old panhandling ordinance with a new “Aggressive
Solicitation” ordinance on July 24^th , despite the city’s own counsel
informing them that the law was most likely unconstitutional.

Under threat of litigation, the city had hired Parker Poe, a law firm
out of Raleigh, NC, and paid them over $32,000 to help draft an
ordinance which could withstand constitutional scrutiny. The law firm
drafted an alternative “harassment” ordinance which failed to get enough
votes to pass at the council meeting on July 24^th . The council instead
approved the current “aggressive solicitation” ordinance on a 5-4 vote.
In explaining the problems with the current ordinance, Mac McCarley, an
attorney for Parker Poe, told the council, “If you call it solicitation,
you’ve now made it content-based, and that’s the thing that triggers a
level of review by the Supreme Court that it will never withstand.”

“Members of the Homeless Union are engaged in this lawsuit because
homeless people still have constitutional rights, and because our city
needs to get its priorities straight,” said Marcus Hyde, an organizer
with the Homeless Union of Greensboro. “If we want to reduce
homelessness or panhandling downtown, we ought to be focusing on housing
and living wages. Criminalizing poor people because of their economic
status only perpetuates poverty, and it wastes lots of ­­­­tax dollars.”


*Read The Complaint Here

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