More and more, panhandling is becoming prevalent in our town. One local woman hopes to criminalize it by starting a petition to present to the city council next month.
Chrystal Lynn Perry started the petition earlier this month and has already received nearly 600 signatures.
“We don’t need scammers standing at intersections taking people’s money,” the petition reads. “Outsiders will see our city as trashy and it makes it look like Paris doesn’t take care of our citizens.”
Perry said she feels with the people in this city supporting her cause, something can be done.
“I have been down myself,” she said. “I have lived in the shelter so I am not judging. I just feel there is a better way to get help than standing at intersections or in front of stores asking for money.”
Opponents argue that criminalizing panhandling is a violation of the First Amendment.
“I would not be in support of that petition,” said Tanteta Scott of the New Hope Center. “That criminalizes homelessness and I would rather the community work together toward positive solutions, rather than creating additional barriers to an already vulnerable population.”
“The Lamar County Homelessness Coalition is in opposition to the passing of any city ordinance that would serve to criminalize homelessness,” said LCHC President Shelly Braziel. “We are aware that our community has many questions regarding homelessness and the services available in Lamar County, we will be hosting a Live Q&A on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 7 a.m., on Facebook. We invite the community to tune in and send any questions to us either in advance to our LCHC Facebook page or in the comments of the live feed.”
Paris Mayor Steve Clifford said he wasn’t aware panhandling was a problem in the city.
“I haven’t seen any panhandlers around, but if they’re blocking intersections or making people feel uncomfortable then this is something we need to look into,” he said.
February city council meetings will happen on Feb. 11 and Feb. 25 at the city council chambers in Paris.