Newport News City Council to vote on panhandling law

PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) – Newport News City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to get rid of its panhandling law.

Nancy Powell, a homeless woman we found begging for money on the side of a road, told 10 On Your Side that since last October she’s gotten two tickets for panhandling and racked up court costs she obviously can’t afford.

“I don’t think we should be ticketed because people want to give us money, they don’t have to give us money if they don’t want to,” Powell said.

It seems the law is now on her side. After a recent Supreme Court decision, several federal judges have ruled panhandling is protected free speech.

In March, the city of Hampton repealed its ordinance. The city then put up signs across town asking people to “Please Don’t Encourage Panhandling.” The signs also include a phone number that connects the homeless to services.

Chesapeake’s City Attorney, Jan Proctor, told 10 On Your Side:

“The City does not prohibit solicitation due to recent federal court decisions. We are currently studying appropriate safety measures, as requested by City Council during last month’s work session.”

Suffolk and Portsmouth say they do have panhandling laws in place with no plans to talk about repealing at this time. Virginia Beach has been following the issue closely and is looking at whether changing the city’s ordinance needs to be considered.

Norfolk also has a law against it but did not get back to us about any possible reconsideration.

Along with the vote on panhandling, Newport News will also vote on an ordinance that would make it illegal to stand in a street; including charities that approach vehicles for donations.