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May 22, 2015

Tampa Charity Sues City Over Panhandling Restrictions

A group serving the homeless in Tampa, Fla., has gone to court to block city laws that limit panhandling, saying the measures are unconstitutional and could put the charity out of business, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The federal suit brought Wednesday by Homeless Helping Homeless targets a 2011 measure that outlaws street begging every day but Sunday and a 2013 ban on panhandling in certain parts of Tampa and near certain facilities, including ATMs and transit stops.

Homeless Helping Homeless, which provides shelter beds and meals, said the ordinances restrict some forms of speech based on content and limit its volunteers' ability to solicit donations for the organization, costing it more than $20,000. The measures, intended to curb public behaviors city officials said might make people feel vulnerable, do not apply to solicitations that involve only holding a sign. The charity said it does not have a problem with a city ban on aggressive panhandling.