Duluth City Council Votes to Repeal Ordinances Banning Panhandling, Sleeping in Cars

Council voted 8-0 to repeal both ordinances

DULUTH, Minn. – The Duluth City Council voted unanimously to repeal two ordinances.

One made it illegal for people to sleep in their cars, the other banned panhandling in the city.

It will now be legal to panhandle and sleep in cars in the city of Duluth.

The council voted 8-0 to repeal both ordinances with Councilor Jay Fosle not present.

The panhandling ban has not been enforced recently in Duluth because similar laws have been overturned in cities across the country due to a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision which ruled that begging for money is protected by the first amendment.

Councilors say keeping the ordinance could have lead to the city being sued.

Many speakers recalled their own experiences with homelessness and spoke about why they believe Duluth should have repealed the ordinances, that they feel can be an important part of a city-wide homeless bill of rights.

“The basis of a city, of a neighborhood is taking care of one another and laws that unfairly target our poorest citizens really need to be looked at and examined,” said Jason Kenison of the Homeless Bill of Rights Coalition.

Councilor Joel Sipress says while panhandling is no longer illegal, harassment and other laws protecting public safety will continue to be enforced.

“If there are people who are engaging in panhandling, which has been found to be a constitutionally protected right, and if those individuals behave in ways that are a threat to others or harassing or threaten public safety, let’s work together as a community to address the behavior in a constructive, collaborative way,” said Sipress.

No one at the meeting spoke in favor of keeping the ordinances.

Many who support a homeless bill of rights hope tonight’s city council vote is only the beginning to protecting the rights of people experiencing homelessness.

They also want to ensure housing and hygiene facilities are available to all.

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