Downtown Cleveland experiences increase in panhandling after city disbands solicitation ordinance

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-22 17:50:45-04

As downtown Cleveland continues to experience rapid growth, it is attracting more than just new businesses and residents.

Right now, the city is trying to tackle a sharp rise in the number of panhandlers.

For years, Cleveland has tried solving its panhandling problem with police, this according to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

Now that the city just dropped its aggressive solicitation ordinance, which was being challenged in court, NEOCH says it is time for a new approach.

“I get asked every day, ‘Do you have some money?’ And if I say no they sometimes yell at me and call me names," said Ty Burt.

Burt's experience in downtown Cleveland lately is becoming more commonplace.

"It's most definitely the same people every single day," said Burt.

Downtown residents like Matt Shaver have noticed a larger number of people in need.

“In the last few months, I would say definitely, yes," said Shaver.

Shaver tells News 5 people begging for money approach him every time he walks downtown.

"On my way to get my haircut today, there was a guy who came up to me asking for money. So normally, it's a pretty common occurrence," said Shaver.

As for why we're seeing an uptick now?

"We haven't done much to address poverty, and lots of people are struggling, can't find a job," said Brian Davis, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

Add to that the growing popularity of downtown and you can see why.

"So you have more pedestrian traffic, you're going to see an increase in panhandling," said Davis.

It is a problem Davis and others encouraged the city and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance to tackle last year ahead of the Republican National Convention.

"They said it was too expensive and they weren't interested," said Davis.

The plan they passed on would have addressed panhandling with a social service response.

"By hiring outreach workers, going out, engaging panhandlers saying what can we do to get you a job or get you some income so that you don't have to beg anymore,” said Davis.

Davis tells News 5 other cities have seen success going this route.

Until we see what's next for Cleveland, residents like Matt Shaver know they will continue to come across people in need.

"It's not terrible, it's part of living in a city," said Shaver.

A spokesperson for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance told News 5 they do not have any comment on the changes to the city's panhandling law. When asked why they refuse to address the concerns of people who live and work downtown we received a ‘no comment’ response.

Among the cities that recently took a social service approach are Albuquerque and Denver.

Both started paying panhandlers to work instead of beg.

Now other cities like South Bend, Indiana are looking at doing the same.