People ticketed for breaking panhandling rules in Durham may soon be able to avoid the criminal court system. The change would mean sending violators of the solicitation or panhandling ordinance through Community Life Court – instead of paying fines or doing time in jail.
Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield has already consulted with the chief district court judge and the city attorney on the matter.
“What we’re trying to do is move all of these violations to Community Life Court so that they will all be heard at the same time, in the same hearing once a month. But that then there will be service provider agencies available to assist persons," said Bonfield.
Bonfield says the Homeless Services Advisory Committee has agreed to the changes. But they still need city council approval. Opponents claimed the current ordinance criminalized poverty.
Bonfield says the updated solicitation ordinance is not just focused on the homeless. He says it also includes changes affecting all roadside panhandlers.
"It would include political campaigning, it would include car washes, cookie sales or whatever, church fundraisers and those people with buckets," said Bonfield. "Everything falls under the same set of rules."