Snohomish to consider aggressive panhandling law



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Posted on June 2, 2014 at 11:10 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 2 at 11:13 PM

SNOHOMISH -- Elizabeth Grant's job is to help those in need.  As Director of the Snohomish Community Food Bank, she has helped countless people struggling to make ends meet get the nourishment they need.

So it seemed fitting for her to take a shopping bag full of food to the intersection of Bickford Ave. and Ave. D. and help the numerous panhandlers often spotted there.

But for each of the dozens of times she has done that, she says the response has been the same.

"Nah," she recounts, "We offer everything to them and they won't accept it.

"Their signs say, 'Need food, homeless, God Bless'.  When they don't take the food, you wonder what do they use the money for."

Recently, Grant and her volunteers went to the Snohomish City Council to bring up the issue of aggressive panhandling, which they said is a constant problem in their neighborhood.

City officials said two months ago, panhandlers began fighting with each other over the right to work certain corners.  Trash is often left behind, and drivers report panhandlers walking right into the street.

At Avenue D and Bickford Ave, a new roundabout is being constructed, limiting pedestrian access.  But according to Grant and nearby business owner Nathan Thompson, the panhandlers remain.

"This is their bread and butter," said Thompson, "They have to be doing pretty well.  They're always killing it."

In response to the aggressive tactics, the Snohomish City Council will discuss an ordinance to deal with the panhandling Tuesday.  The goal, city officials said, is not to ban panhandling, but to tone it down and prevent people from feeling threatened or intimidated by those looking for money.

Marysville and Arlington have similar ordinances, and even have signs encouraging people to donate to charities, rather than people on the street.

"There are no excuses.  You won't go hungry in Snohomish," said Grant.