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city dope Brother, Can You Spare an Ordinance?

nonprofit referral service that runs the 211 helpline) and the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank. Community Platform is software that will allow nonprofits to collect data from 211 callers and by going door-to-door with iPads. I’m geeking out about this for several reasons. A) For the first time, service providers will know exactly what and where are the needs in the community. B) Some nonprofits play nice with others, and some don’t. This project is forcing everyone to collaborate. The system will be more efficient, and we’ll have less duplication of services. C) Selfishly, this data will lead to a lot of cool stories. Anyway, Community Connection is about to launch Project Platform, a series of pop-up events through Nov. 23 at which volunteers will be asked to use their laptops and cellphones to input data and conduct interviews. “Basically, we’re asking people to give up their lunch breaks,” Executive Director Fenwick Broyard said. The first event is at Clarke Central High School on Wednesday, but the first public event is from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 and Friday, Oct. 31 at Hendershot’s. Grab a sandwich and start typing.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to act in a boisterous, Panhandlers generally are not people who go to Our Daily turbulent or agitated manner, or who shall use profane, vulgar, Bread or are interested in taking advantage of social services, loud or unbecoming language while under the influence of Barger said. “Several folks I’ve observed panhandling are not alcohol or other drugs while on the streets, sidewalks or other engaging the human services system,” she said. “It’s not a public places within Athens-Clarke County.” matter of the services not being available or even within walkThat’s Section 3-15-1(f) of the ACC code of ordinances. ing distance.” Sounds like a Bulldog fan or a college kid, right? But this ordiIn fact, officials described panhandling as a job—often, nance doesn’t refer to them—it’s part of the code section on panhandlers don’t need food, but rather money for alcohol or panhandling. drugs. And they’re usually the same people, day after day. “If ACC law currently prohibits only “aggressive” panhandling: you go down to College Square about 10 ‘til nine in the morndefined as accosting someone, asking for money repeatedly ing, it’s like shifts coming into work,” Thompson said. after being turned down or causing a person to fear imminent Rarely are those panhandlers aggressive, especially since bodily harm. “You can’t be arrested in Athens for just begpolice started cracking down a few years ago. “We’ve run some ging, just asking people for money,” sting operations in times past, and Big Bucks: Over the past few years, politicians (specifically County Attorney Bill Berryman said. we’re about to start those again,” the Democrats) have denounced the corrupting influence of “Just because you’re poor doesn’t Downtown merchants who believe Lt. Gary Epps said. money in politics. However, despite this complaint and calls mean you’re morally inferior.” panhandlers hurt their businesses The reason those stings are necto change the status quo, in the top 10 states with the most recently asked ACC commissioners to essary is that people who complain outside spending, Democrats are outspending Republicans. take another stab at tightening up the law. The last attempt to about aggressive panhandlers rarely follow up. Many are from According to, Georgia ranks ninth in curb panhandling ended with commissioners realizing that to out of town, and it’s a lot to ask even an Athens resident to most outside spending and in the U.S. Senate race between ban the mere act of asking for money would violate the First file a report and then testify for something so minor. But that Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. Outside Amendment. They came to the same conclusion at a recent means it’s tough for police to make a case. “We can’t make an spending on behalf of Nunn is almost double what’s being Legislative Review Committee meeting. “This is exactly where ordinance forcing people to go to court,” Lowry said. spent in support of Perdue. Furthermore, the total amount of we left it last time, isn’t it?” Commissioner Doug Lowry said. While downtown panhandlers generate most of the comdirect donations raised by Nunn, $9.2 million, is also almost Panhandling is “one of the top three challenges” for downplaints, the biggest problem in recent years is panhandlers double what was raised by Perdue, $5.8 million. town businesses, said Pam Thompson, executive director of the on Loop ramps, interim Police Chief The gubernatorial election between Athens Downtown Development Authority. Panhandling creCarter Greene said. Those are easier to “Basically, we’re asking people Nathan Deal and Jason Carter is ates a perception that downtown is unsafe, which hurts busideal with, because police can simply quite the opposite. Carter raised $3.5 to give up their lunch breaks.” million and Deal more than twice nesses, and “victims” of panhandling are unlikely to report it, force them to move off the right-ofbecause they think the law can’t be enforced, she said, quoting way for safety reasons. They can’t do that with $8.1 million, according from a 2008 Downtown Athens Business Association report. that to someone who’s sitting on a bench holding a sign. to As a side note, about 20 percent of Complaints tend to increase in the fall, when new University of For people who are panhandled downtown, Barger offered Carter’s funding comes from out of state, with Deal’s out-ofGeorgia students start class, and during conferences, such as a this advice: “Answer the problem they say they have. If it’s state funds at about 15 percent. [David Schick] group of mainly single women who recently complained about food, offer them food, or tell them where free food is. There’s a man holding a sign—just holding a sign—outside the Hilton free food seven days a week. After hours, I offer to buy them ICYMI: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4, and we have a preGarden Inn, Thompson said. food.” [Our Daily Bread offers breakfast and lunch Monday– view on p. 6, but last week’s Flagpole had lots of good stuff Erin Barger, executive director of Action Ministries, which Friday. The Salvation Army provides supper 7 days.] in it, too, including a Q&A with congressional candidate Ken runs the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, pointed out that the The ADDA accepts donations for homeless services using Dious, a profile of gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter and an ordinance doesn’t describe most panhandlers, or most homeless parking meters downtown, but the signage is poor, and they explainer on Gov. Nathan Deal’s ethics or lack thereof. They’re people, for that matter. She questioned whether the problem only bring in about $500 a year. At one point, the authority still up at lies with the people who feel uncomfortable or afraid. distributed cards to downtown businesses listing resources for Also, remember that you can vote early through 5 p.m. “It would be reasonable for a woman who looks like me to the homeless, and Thompson suggested doing that again. But Friday at the Board of Elections. If you plan to vote Nov. 4, be fearful of someone who comes into Our Daily Bread,” Barger the cards wouldn’t be for panhandlers—they’d be for the cusfind your polling place and a sample ballot at said. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge that belief… tomers. “It’s not the panhandlers who need to be educated,” Both top-of-the-ballot races look like they will be very close, Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you’re morally inferior. Commissioner Andy Herod said. “It’s the general public.” so your vote will make a difference. Go vote. Oh, and by the “I’ve felt more uncomfortable regarding Section F on gameway, vote. Please vote, too. day around football fans. But I don’t have the right to restrict Big Data: In September, Flagpole told you about Community something that makes me uncomfortable.” Platform, a partnership between Community Connection (the Blake Aued

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Profile for Flagpole Magazine

October 29th, 2014

October 29th, 2014