NEW ORLEANS – Some are asking if panhandlers should be required to have permits after an ordinance passed in Slidell, making it illegal to ask for money without registering with authorities.
If you're driving on Elysian Fields Avenue near I-10 in New Orleans, chances are you'll see one man asking for money. Tuesday he said his name is Robert Davis, but that may not be the case.
Eyewitness News met him three years ago, in the same spot, but with a different name. Three years ago, said his name was Mike Jones. This could be part of the reason why many people drivers refuse to give their money to panhandlers. Many people just don't know who the people are, or where their money will go.
In Slidell, city leaders are finalizing a law requiring panhandlers to have a permit. The ordinance in Slidell has already been approved and will go into effect at the end of November.
"My personal opinion, and the opinion of a lot of my staff, a lot of the people that panhandle do not need to panhandle," Biaggio DiGiovanni, said executive director of Ozanam Inn.
Ozanam Inn is a homeless shelter in New Orleans offering free meals and beds to the less fortunate. DiGiovanni believes requiring permits to panhandle is a positive thing.
However, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) believes such a law, is unconstitutional.
"Requiring people to go to the police to register, that's what people do in totalitarian countries where you have to register your activities with police,” Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of ACLU Louisiana said. “The way to solve it is to fix the economic problems, not to try and make it go away.”
Michelle Welch said she knows how hard economic problems can impact one's life. Welch began panhandling this month.
"I lost my job at the end of September,” Welch explained. “I got an eviction notice October 7 and I had twenty-four hours to be out of my apartment."
Panhandlers like Welch and Davis insist they only ask for money out of necessity.
"Stop assuming the worst about me cause that's not the scenario. I'm not out here trying to scam you for your dollar or you think I'm fake or not real," Davis said.
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