WBBM Newsradio: Advocacy groups warn cities about unconstitutional panhandling ordinances

By Mike Krauser

More than 200 cities, including 15 in Illinois, are being warned that their panhandling ordinances are unconstitutional and need to be repealed.

Diane O’Connell, a lawyer for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said, “panhandling laws are used to unfairly criminalize people experiencing homelessness for exercising their First Amendment rights. Every person has the right to ask for help.

“There are notable similarities between all of them, but the problem is that they target a particular type of speech and that’s called a content restriction and that’s unconstitutional.”

Since a U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in 2015, panhandling ordinances in 55 cities have either been repealed or struck down by courts.

The letters are a first step. Legal action will follow, O’Connell said.

Locally, the letters went to Chicago, Oak Park, Cicero, Elgin and Aurora.