Panhandling and Taxis.
Mike Verveer says that he moves the 4th substitute.
Susan Schmidt (lobbyists for Downtown Madison Inc)and Steve Schooler (Porchlight) do a joint presentation on their work, they get 5 minutes each instead of 3 minutes.
Schmidt talks about the ReachOut program that has been in effect since 2001. She says she heard about this idea at a conference, they had an advisory committee, have goals, objectives and a work plan. She points out all the important people on their advisory board. She says the the first two pieces were taken over by others and they were in charge of the education. They hired a facilitator and got grants. They educate people about panhandling. They had 4 focus groups, 3 were downtown students, workers and business owners. They were used to see how the public would perceive it. The most interesting was the panhandlers, it was eye opening. Results are in the packet. The one challenge has been to sustain it cuz new people coming to the university once or twice a year. Sometimes the success depends upon who the contact is at the university. DMI plans to keep this going. They use the money for alcohol,drugs and cigarettes. They were looking at meters on the street. To give people to have an option to put their money somewhere. Timer goes off, she keeps talking. She says the success is not the money but the education. They are working on getting meter on 500 block. They are working on details. She keeps talking and introduces Steve Schooler.
Schooler says not all panhandlers are homeless. This is based on contacts with police and who stays at the shelter. He goes through statistics in the handout.
Bidar-Sielaff asks if people got the handout.
He says that few people at the shelter have contact with police. He talks about the programs, one is funded by federal government and works with people with mental illness. Three outreach workers, 2 Tellurian and 1 Porchlight and they approach people and help get them into services, treatment and ultimately housing. 1 other outreach worker who works on State St. and they can work on anyone. They spend $160K per year and only $40K comes from city, there are limited amounts of money for services, treatment and first month rent. Maximum of 3 – 6 months of case management if they get into housing. They are trying to use the Hut to connect with the people to get them services. The Hut has a nurse that works with mental health. 50% of the people they work with have AODA issues 70% have mental health issues and 40% have physical disabilities, most are male, most chronic homeless and most under 65. He shows results. 210 people contacted 131 exited, 70% ended up in housing. He reads quickly, the buzzer goes off, he keeps talking. He talks about someone that they worked with, someone a police officer worked with, went to Occupy, convenient and comfortable for him, they lost track of him, when they closed down, they worked with him and got him into treatment and now housing. He can tell you many stories like that, with the right motivation, right resources and at the right time they can help people from the chronic list and get them into housing.
Maniaci asks about the map they have. She is worried about spill over into residential neighborhoods. Do you have concern if the commercial areas are off limits, will they move to the next best place in more residential neighborhoods?
Schooler says this is speculative, but they are saavy, and they will move but if don’t find traffic and business they won’t stay. State St. is a very easy place, once in neighborhoods, it is harder for them to make what they need to get. It also depends on ease to access alcohol and if work with the alcohol purveyor you will be able to shut that down.
Maniaci asks about if they will turn to other activities.
Schooler says in other words will they move to hard core crimes, he says many are already criminals.
Mark Clear asks about the ordinance.
Schooler says he hasn’t seen the latest iteration. He says he worked years ago on the nuisance list. It has been a challenge to enforce not allowing the person to get alcohol. He says that research supports if harder to access alcohol then that changes to motivation calculus. He says that it won’t make a difference for everyone, he says State St. has people willing to give and alcohol readily available and the more you can make it challenging and difficult you can make a difference if you can put that money into housing and services.
Clear asks Schmidt the same.
Schmidt says that everything she knows comes from Steve and she trusts him. She says that the students thought we didn’t provide services and when we told them and showed them all the services then they didn’t understand, but how would they know. It was pretty convincing asking panhandlers what they do. Also, we see it on a regular basis at the philosopher stone area, some go panhandle, come back the money and then they get alcohol and fill their water bottles, they get intoxicated and are intoxicated all day. The people who are homeless can’t get into the shelter and then we come to work and there is feces and urine on our streets and it is a problem.
Marsha Rummel asks what the State St. outreach worker does in a day.
Schooler says that they should be there on a daily basis and get trust with these folks, they worked with the Occupy people too, and they work with them at the shelter and they try to gain trust and explore services available. Through that and after several contacts and months then work with them and provide services and housing.
If someone goes to work, and see someone, otherwise to they randomly hand out?
Schooler says that they can get people medical services at the Hut and that might be a hook to get them to talk about their issues. When the library was open, the outreach workers did staff the library and that was one of the best places to make a connection.
What would you do in the budget.
Schooler says highly subsidized housing and immediate mental health and alcohol and drug services and a social worker, to link them in at the same time and work with them once they are in housing.
What would on demand housing look like>
Schooler says it would be housing first. Either public housing would have openings or rental vouchers in the private markets, we have a limited number of those units, they got 13 through HUD, but they don’t turn over. They move in with case management and treatment services.
Rummel asks if they have been talking about this.
Schooler says they are just trying to keep the money they have.
Manaici says one of the changes is a change from 50 feet to 25 feet.
Steve doesn’t understand.
Shiva Bidar-Sielaff clarifies it is from ATM and alcohol.
Schooler says it doesn’t really matter.
Deb Archer says not speaking on Convention and Visitors Bureau because they haven’t taken a position, but had the conversation. She wants them to think about another audience, the visitors they work hard to bring here. She thinks they will be put off from it. She talks about being on State St. for her daughters 21st birthday and her daughter felt harassed and they flagged down a cop on a horse and they were told they couldn’t don anything because they were in an area where it was ok for them to harass people.
Rosemary Lee says she regrets bad feelings toward homeless because of their behavior, not because they were homeless. She talks about a person who asked for money for food, offered to go in to Nicks and let her order food, she looked her square in the eye and said that wouldn’t be satisfactory and so what was she going to use the money for. She has friends that won’t come downtown who are younger who will not come downtown because they are harassed. She talked about a worker who gets lewd and nasty comments on Mifflin St. She says wherever panhandling there is intimidating behavior. People are distressed at the quality of life deteriorating. She says there is an economic impact as well. To go from State St. to University Hospital by ambulance costs the city $600. She says businesses and developers won’t do business here. Talks about business person who complains about cleaning vomit, urine and feces every morning.
Gary ? from Mondays, says this is the worst it has ever been. People sit on bench in front of my bar and when police are not there they bug everyone. The police say their hands are tied and can’t do anything. Please ban panhandling.
Michael Rickers – grew up spending time downtown cuz parents owned shop on State St. It’s no fun anymore cuz of intrusive behaviors. He talks about being harassed by panhandler who said they needed a dollar for booze because he is an alcoholic. We thought it was funny at first, but he followed us and kept bugging us. I raised my voice at him and eventually he acted like the victim. He talks about panhandlers saying overly nice things to young women on the street. He heard other similar stories – the guy who asked for money for booze also asked another person for money for his church group. He is worried what visitors ask. He got disgusted by his experience and left State St. early last time he was there. He’s in the miliary and he hasn’t experience anything like this elsewhere.
Mary Carbine from the Madison Central Business Investment District. They are partners with DMIs Reach Out program. This is a way of life for people. Sorry . . . taking a break . . . another shop owner testifies, says that where there is panhandling, it brings disruptive behavior . . . missed the rest . . . oh wait, 2 more business owners say more of the same . . .
I may have missed some, but Verveer asks the city attorney to describe the new version.
Marci Paulson says they tried to simplify the ordinance. Its 25 feet from intersections, sidewalk cafes and atms. They took out the section on businesses. They have a map and you can’t panhandle in the downtown district area or within 25 feet of an alcohol establishment.
Verveer asks about the case law and why the ordinance is in some ways is more permissive or lenient.
Paulson says that she has worked on the ordinance for 10 years and the case law has changed and the courts have held that you have a right to panhandle, you can’t ban it everywhere and you have to look at what narrowly meets the governmental needs. When they drafted the new ordinance they looked at the detrimental effect and tailoring it as narrowing as they could.
Verveer says that they think they can defend this if challenged, but can you explain how we strengthened the rational, and how the downtown core is allowed.
Michael May says that the start of the ordinance has a purpose and it mentions the unique area of the city and why it is unique and this is what the court will look at. Not only is it unique, but then you have to limit it to the areas you have the problem. The same issue with the liquor stores, you heard it in the testimony tonight and they thought they could add that. They thought their distances might be too broad, so they brought them down.
Paulson says that the ATM one was one they brought down due to a court case but they are comfortable with that.
Verveer asks Jeff Pharo the State St and Capitol area officer and asks him for a summary of his observations of panhandling. Also talk about it being an organized professional racket.
Pharo says that neighborhood officers don’t take patrol calls, get to know people and that is one of the things he does. He looked at the issue, its both a call for service issue and the people involved, but someone calling in a complaint they say where they are and the address changes depending upon where they call from and its hard to tell which are related. He is there every day. He says it is not a homeless issue. It is a small group. There are about 18 known active panhandlers that use it on a regular basis. He looked back 2 years and those 18 people have had 608 contacts with MPD. The low number was 4 the high number was 67, average 35. 2 haven’t gotten any tickets, 16 have. 295 ordinance violations. 18 per person. 7 are regular conveyances to detox. 144 conveyances, 20 each. 12 are felons, 5 have sex offenses, 9 have weapons offenses, 4 are wanted. 5 are on habitually intoxicated list. 2 on probation. 12 have violent histories. 12 have drug histories. Probation and parole have been making it a condition of probation or parole to not be there, 2 have those rules and won’t follow them. He also thought about what stands out for him. He talks about one 63 year old person who has a long history. Talks about one who is in treatment. Talks about one who stabbed someone who stabbed another person on State St. Another one they did a 3rd party petition to get him into treatment at the hospital, but is back. He has the highest number of contacts, highest number of detox conveyances. Usually when people get tickets they go to collections, but they want a warrant on him. Another on on the ‘hit list” they did a 3rd party petition and he is back. He had a full bottle of rum and a water bottle full of vodka and he said he’d go away so they didn’t take it from him. Another one is out on Huber, and he was in jail because he had a knife in his pocket and was going to pull it on him. Talks about more people . . . and how they come back when not in jail or treatment. There is a guy who runs it, they have an on deck circle and he is in charge of who goes when and if you don’t like it you will be battered. . . . missing some, setting tivo in case I want to go to bed instead of watching any more.
Shiva Bidar-Sielaff interrupts and says they have a good picture of what goes on. She wants to make sure that people get to ask questions.
Maniaci asks what the ordinance will do given that they are already writing tickets and the court is putting them back out. We have something that is just another ticket and they don’t seem deterred by that.
Pharo says generally there is a gauntlet, the person panhandling and the rest wait on the bench, with certain conditions it is not a ticket, it is they have to post on the ticket or they won’t get out. Many can’t if no address and no money. That means that there is one less person waiting to use that spot.
Maniaci asks about displacement to residential neighborhoods. Is it really the heavy traffic for these 18 people, is it the commercial nature of this spot.
Pharo says yes, its the amount of foot traffic, if you stand on Gorham you won’t have the volume of people. On State St. it is narrow so they have a captive audience.
Maniaci asks what will happen with these individuals – will they move out of the city. What happens when we cut them off from their source.
Pharo says some will go elsewhere, some will do other things, some will keep doing it. $4 is enough to get beers for the day, they have other resources, its easy money.
Lauren Cnare asks how people will be informed about the changes.
Pharo says he sees them all the time, has lunch with them, that is how they do their job.
Do they know this is coming.
Yes, it wouldn’t be fair not to have an education piece. We have other officers who work the street every day, they are committed to doing this. That piece has to be there, there are a ton of agencies there to help people. One of the guys who was in treatment, his cousin is in treatment now.
Cnare says sometimes it looks like we have a lot of resources, but there are waiting lists, are there things we can do to make it so people don’t have to do this.
Pharo says this is a choice. He says one guy told him that if he dies sitting on the bench he is ok. He’s one of the decent ones, but he’s in a bad spot.
Brian Solomon thanks him too. He says that 12 are felons and 5 are sex offenders. And how many ordinance violations – 295.
Solomon asks if other crime rates will go up if this happens, will there be other unintended consequences.
He says no, 12 are felons, they are committing crimes, this is convenient, will some who is not a criminal become one, the ones that are will continue doing what they do. It won’t be as comfortable in that area, this won’t fix all the evils in the corridor, is it a huge tool, he thinks it is.
Solomon asks if this is directed to those 18 people or a broader intent.
Pharo says that it isn’t about the individuals. This is gateway to capitol, near the stadium, people want to eat dinner. I wouldn’t bring my family there, I am not comfortable and I’m a police officer.
Clear asks Atty Paulson about taking the aggressive panhandling ordinance and combining it.
Paulson says the title remained the same and no one ever changed it. The ordinance deals with all types of panhandling.
Clear says there are 4 trigger words, threat, coercion, agressive and intimidating. Is there another paragraph or are one of those required to trigger the ordinance.
Paulson says that they have a definition of “procuring a handout”, that definition in any of the locations it is considered panhandling and it is banned. You don’t need the aggression.
Clear asks about busking and asking for donations for non-profits or political activities is not covered.
Paulson says you can’t ask for money for Red Cross, for example. At the last council meeting, if they just stand there and are verbally requesting a donation, people have to approach the table.
So if you have a guitar case out?
You are not stopping someone and asking for money.
Maniaci wants to be clear about the language on atms and alcohol establishments is citywide, right?
What about bell ringers.
They are not speaking to another person they are ok, if ring bell and say “give us money” then yes they are in violation.
What about the firemen and the boots?
They have a street permit and if you get one it is ok.
Maniaci asks about the map, she wanted to use the ALDO district, similar to what you laid out here, can you give background about why not ALDO, it looks like you wanted to keep it narrow, why not the entire downtown which would have included more residential.
Paulson says very hesitant, it needed to be narrowest way to solve the problem, if expand it greatly the courts might say it is not legal. If too broad, could run into trouble with that.
If the behavior moves can we alter the map.
Yes, if just displaced we can document it and change the map.
Rummel asks about why all intersections – she thinks this is a better version, but that is pretty broadly construed.
Paulson says it has always been that way, for 5 or 10 years. There is a safety issue asking people in cars for money. There was concern about traffic and safety issues. Doesn’t matter what part of town you are in. Pharo might have something to add to that.
Rummel says the fire department seems dangerous and she is concerned about the inconsistency.
Pharo says that between sidewalk and sidewalk you can’t ask for money from a car and its illegal for a car to stop and respond.
Verveer asks Mark Woulf (Alcohol Coordinator) about the parking meter idea. Woulf says that they are working with Reach Out and Susan Schmidt to purchase one parking meter for the 500 block of University and they are trying to figure out who collects the money and where it will go and who (Porchlight or DMI) will collect the money.
Solomon asks about the ordinance, if they ask they are breaking the ordinance and if don’t ask, they they are not, right.
Yes, if you don’t ask, if stand with a cup or open guitar case you are not in violation.
What about a sign?
If sign says “seeking donations” you are not asking, but if following someone, then you might be being aggressive. They would have to look at the activities.
So there are two paths, aggressive or verbal. Verbal is clear, aggressive is open to interpretation.
Paulson says it is all laid out in the ordinance.
Verveer urges support. Thinks referral really helped in this case. There were many good suggestions for the ordinance and other ideas in asking questions about outreach and a donation box. The referral perfected this. Hopes there is a higher comfort level. He says he joked about the map and the negotiation between him and the city attorney’s office on the map boundaries. He isn’t a fan of the relaxation of some of the ordinance, but there is no denying what the case law is in the country today and the recommendations they made are clear and convincing. The existing ordinance is confusing and complex. Some of our own officers don’t know it, the dispatchers don’t, the panhandlers don’t and stakeholders don’t. This will make it clear. This is a huge issue on State St. and he asks them to put himself in his shoes and what would you do if you represented the one legal panhandling spot. You heard Pharo and his first hand account that most of the usual panhandlers are not homeless. This is a racket that only a handful of individuals can use and we need to close this loophole. He can’t tell you how many complaints he has had. Residents and visitors think this is scary and dangerous to be asked for money. We have heard from Deb Archer and the Monona Terrace that people are worried about safety and they mention what they experience. We have to put a stop to that. Perceptions are reality, Pharo’s testimony shows these are generally scary people. Not to paint everyone with a broad brush, alcoholism is obviously an issues. Testimony is overwhelmingly in favor. So were the emails and it is past time to revise this ordinance, especially around liquor establishments.
Soglin says he apologizes that we are holding a neighborhood conference on October 13th and they should have held it earlier before we took up issues related to “place”. A council member asked if they had to pay a fee, the answer is no. WE are a scity of 235,000 and county of almost a half a million and do not be surprised at what you heard today about the impact of under 2 dozen people. Keep in mind that the homeless community is well over 100 people who regularly utilize facilities at Grace Episopal and others. Just cuz someone is homeless doesn’t mean they are panhandling, and if they are panhandling they are not homeless. There are services. Less than 2 dozen people are having this impact and whether looking at it in terms of the intrusion or how it is diminishing police and fire resources we need to do something about it. It is long over due to handle it in a clear and decisive manner. He believe it will have an effect and make it easier to deal with the obnoxious problems described this evening and if it doesn’t happen there are other steps we can take. Those people who are causing the trouble will have choices, one choice is eliminated. They will not be left to continue to ask for money. While their combined activity is relatively minor in terms of serious prison time, if they are cut off from financial resources to continue behavior that is self indulgent, they are going to give up. We have counseling, housing and therapy available to them. This destructive behavior will not be allowed to continue. In the future, we discussed a very expensive but successful program that we had but was abandoned where section 8 and block grant money was used for a dormitory type situation to work with a dozen men who were struggling. They had a resident adviser and worked on education to jobs, they will pursue that. They need to cut off the alcohol. He says that they had some bright university student here and we won’t allow them to drink int eh street if Halloween, Mifflin or University. Somehow, these students are not as bright as the people we are talking about. People have mastered making sure that they hide alcohol in other containers. We can be just as bright, if they figure out ways around this, we can counter. Whether it is housing or counseling we will work around it. We have to have this ordinance. 2 dozen people should not be driving this train – they can’t be affecting the downtown area, we have to start with this. You heard from the public tonight.
Resnick says that people are not here. Will is not here. Brenda is not here. She probably knows about the meeting. After hearing hours of testimony, and talking to people and sitting out there, I do agree that this is necessary. But we should reflect on the process that occurred that in some way we referred it and maybe everything has been said, it has gone on long enough that everyone who opposed it has decided not to show up tonight. While I completely agree with it, I think that says something about this process. This is not going to go away, we will need to address this. I agree this is a tool, but think about everyone who is not here tonight.
Solomon thanks the business owners for being here and their testimony. He appreciates what they are going through. He understands the intent of the ordinance and what Verveer and the Mayor said. We are doing more than simplifying and we should recognize we are doing that. He agrees that homeless people do use money from panhandling for drugs and alcohol, but not all of them. While he was on his street retreat, he didn’t meet anyone getting money for drugs or alcohol. It was for buses, for food. The money they got, some were street pulse vendors, some busked and some depended on panhandling. If we are talking about homeless people and the 18, remember that very few homeless people have significant contact with police. This is about homelessness, but then people saying they are not homeless. We shouldn’t confuse the two. This just raises the perception of homelessness and violence, if that is not the issues, then lets separate the two. If they are homeless, remember they use money for things for things besides drugs and alcohol. Its inconvenient for us to have homeless, it is inconvenient for them too. I heard people say this is a choice, not many people want to be homeless. I also heard about aggressiveness. I’ve heard they do what they do and when police come they change. How will this change anything. Since they have so many ordinance violations, what is going to change. He reminds them that alcoholism is a disease and when we try to treat it with a criminal justice solution we are going down the wrong path. I hope this ordinance doesn’t displace the issues and force them to get money another way. Passing this wont address alcoholism or crack addiction and they will find another way to fund this. He heard a lot tonight, he thought this was about homelessness and now I’m hearing its not and we have a homeless community that we need to keep thinking about how we help them, because they don’t want to be there.
Subeck is willing to support this, she appreciates DMI and others who have tried to come up with companion issues. But this doesn’t get at the issue. REad about other cities who passed these ordinances and they didn’t help. Hopes they do other things to get at the root causes of the problem. First and foremost is the education. As long as supply is there, they will get it. She says also other flaws in the criminal justice system, we should put pressure on people who serve time and don’t get the resources they need. Access to treatment is an issue, there are waiting lists, we have lots of services but the need is so much greater than we can provide. We can’t check this off our list, we need to keep our eye on it. Is this a band-aid and do we need to look for other solutions.
Maniaci says that less than 2 dozen people are sitting here this even and they can effect great change on a place. She says she is concerned about displacement and wants people to be vigilant on this. We have been working on this ordinance for 10 years and it will be back. This is about community partnerships, there are folks at the table, but we need to take a big deep breath and she wants businesses to talk to employees about contacting police. She was amazed while having a burrito and someone asked a guy across the street was the guy who pulled a knife on them 20 minutes ago – and they didn’t call the police. People have to step up and take responsibility. She doesn’t want to see displacement to Langdon St.
They vote . . . voice vote, unanimous it seems. They take a 10 minute break.
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