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Panhandling isn't Prostitution


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Low-income advocates worry SLC’s “commercial solicitation,” or panhandling ordinances will read like a prostitution charge on an individual's record.--- The Salt Lake City Council is likely to finalize the long-debated panhandling ordinance that would set limits and restrictions on where individuals can solicit money from strangers in the city, next week, but some hope it’s not too late for an important edit to the ordinance.

Low-income advocates have recently noticed that the language of the charge—“commercial solicitation”—is too similar to “sex solicitation” or “solicitation of prostitution.”

“Mayor Becker has made it very clear that his goal with this ordinance is to outlaw aggressive panhandling, not all panhandling,” reads the letter drafted by local advocates Gina Cornia, Director for Utahns Against Hunger, Bill Tibbits of the Crossroads Urban-Center and University of Utah law professor Linda Smith.

“Why not simply rename the offense created by this ordinance something like "aggressive panhandling" or "aggressive begging"? A name like that would be more in accord with the Mayor's intent.” The advocates worry especially that females who pick up these charges in Salt Lake City could be stigmatized in other states and locales as having criminal prostitution records.

Assistant to the chief-of-staff Bianca Shreeve notes however that the term is appropriate. "The term 'commercial solicitation' is a broadly accepted legal definition implying a request for a donation of money,” Shreeve writes in an e-mail. Adding that at this point “It is now, however, at the discretion of the City Council, to consider the merits and language of the proposed ordinance.”

The issue is expected to be discussed at the city council’s meeting on Nov. 16.

Below is the full letter sent to the city council.