Chicago repeals prohibition on panhandling

CHICAGO (WAND) - The Chicago City Council has repealed the city's panhandling ordinance.

Letters were sent by groups including the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty as part of a national campaign.

Letters were also delivered on August 28 to officials in Aurora, Carbondale, Champaign, Cicero, Danville, Decatur, East St. Louis, Elgin, Joliet, Moline, Oak Park, Peoria, Rockford and Urbana.

Chicago's ordinance was repealed Nov. 14.

"Chicago's panhandling ordinance was actively enforced, so this is an important victory for people in Chicago who panhandle as a means of a survival," said Diane O'Connell, community lawyer at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. "We have spoken to hundreds of people experiencing homelessness who have been ticketed or arrested for violating this ordinance – locked up or charged fines they cannot pay for nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights. The city was forced to recognize that everyone has the right to ask for help."

In addition to Chicago, Oak Park, Peoria, Urbana, Aurora and Decatur also acted to repeal their panhandling ordinances. Elgin and East St. Louis no longer enforce a ban. Cicero and Champaign are examining their ordinances.  

Carbondale, Danville, Joliet, Moline and Rockford have not responded to the August letter.