The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island is calling an ordinance that has been proposed in Providence, and could soon be introduced in Newport, constitutionally problematic and thinks City Council’s in each community should find other ways to address homelessness and poverty in their communities.

“The ACLU believes that the ordinance that has been proposed in Providence raises serious constitutional questions. It is also a cruel response to the serious problem of homelessness and poverty,” a spokesperson for ACLU told What’sUpNewp on Saturday. “People should not be punished for the ‘crime’ of being poor, but that is precisely what an ordinance like this seeks to do. We hope the Newport City Council will instead focus on more productive, and less constitutionally problematic, ways of addressing poverty in the community.”

Newport City Councilor John Florez announced on Friday morning on his Facebook Page that he plans on addressing the issue of panhandling by copying a proposed ordinance in Providence;

TIME TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT PANHANDLING: In our next Council meeting I will be introducing a resolution that will address our panhandling issue. The challenge thus far has been coming up with an ordinance that holds up constitutionally. This proposed ordinance would prohibit the exchange of money between someone on the street and an auto. The same ordinance is being proposed in Providence by former Mayor Joe Paolino. Throughout my tenure on the Council I’ve been given many reasons why we can’t do something about panhandling in our city. Here we have a viable solution that’s worked in other places. I urge my fellow Councilors to join me in our next meeting and support this measure.

Many have already made their opinion known on Facebook and NextDoor regarding Councilor Florez’s proposed ordinance, with some saying the proposed ordinance is exactly what Newport needs and others calling it unconstitutional, wrong or pandering.

 

Rev. Anne Marie Richards from Trinity Church believes that the real problem is not how visible the poor and homeless are in Newport but what is causing or prolonging their situation.

“It seems to me that the real problem is not how visible our poor and homeless neighbors are, but what is causing, and/or prolonging, their situation. As citizens we can advocate for more (and more efficient) spending on housing, healthcare (particularly mental health treatment), substance abuse treatment, and other programs that help move folks out of poverty, and off the street. And at the same time, let’s work together to improve our educational system, including vocational training such as we have at Rogers in the culinary arts. The beggars and bench-sleepers we see are not the problem per se, they are just a very visible symptom,” Rev. Richards shared on NextDoor.

“Meanwhile, if you want to offer a helping hand, look for any of the wonderful volunteer opportunities and see if there is one that suits your gifts and talents. Not sure where to start? Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center and Child & Family both have active volunteer programs. Literacy Volunteers is actively recruiting and training folks right now (Literacy@LVEB.org). If you need more ideas, I’m happy to meet with folks and talk about the other options to serve around town,” she said.

Councilor Florez plans to introduce the proposed ordinance at one of Newport City Council’s next two meetings.

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and serves on the Board of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and Lucy's Hearth. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.