Willow Meadows Civic Club

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Panhandling

Existing city ordinances regarding panhandling were enacted not to discourage people from giving to the needy, but to place restrictions on aggressive behavior by certain panhandlers. Now, in the wake of increasing crimes in the homeless community (including aggressive panhandling, break-ins, drug deals, public urination and even killings), residents are demanding that city leaders toughen up these ordinances.

This section will be kept up-to-date regarding such efforts in and around Willow Meadows.



Petition on Aggressive Panhandling

The signature collection period for the petition to create a Civility Zone (to help reduce the aggressive panhandling in our neighborhood) has started. Attached is a signature-ready version of the petition. Please be sure to collect original signatures and return them to:

Willow Meadows Civic Club
P.O. Box 35551
Houston, Texas 77235

Willow Meadows is committed to receiving at least 100 signatures for our neighborhood (each neighborhood in the proposed Civility Zone committed to that amount). The deadline for turning in signatures is Friday, December 2.  Do it now, before you forget!

Last Updated on Friday, 07 October 2016 05:28
 

What You Can Do to Help Combat Aggressive Panhandling

(from the Greater Post Oak/West Bellfort Neighborhood Coalition)

  • Do not give money directly to those panhandling on the street.
  • Give to organizations like SEARCH (http://www.searchhomeless.org/) or the Coalition for the Homeless (http://www.homelesshouston.org/), to ensure your money goes to those that need help and not to professional panhandlers.
  • Report aggressive behavior and drug use to the Houston Police Department non-emergency line at 713-884-3131
  • Report loitering, littering, drug use and aggressive behavior at Metro stops to the Metro Police line at 713-224-2677
  • Contact 311 to report littering and damage to city property
  • Sign the petition to create a zone that would prohibit sleeping on the street during daytime hours. We will begin to collect signatures for this petition in September of 2016
  • Attend public session at City Hall to raise awareness among our elected officials of the issue of aggressive panhandling (Date TBD)
  • Join your local civic association to help in their efforts to beautify the esplanades and make them locations that are not conducive to aggressive panhandling.

Thank you for helping the community combat aggressive panhandlers that destroy our neighborhoods and for helping to assist those that are truly in need of food, shelter, healthcare and other basic needs.

 

Houston Municipal Code Sec. 28-46. - Aggressive panhandling.

(a)    The following words, terms, and phrases when used in this section shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this subsection, unless the context of their usage clearly indicates another meaning:

Automated teller machine or ATM means a machine, other than a telephone, that is capable of being operated by a patron to communicate to a financial institution:

(1)    A request to withdraw money from an account directly or under a line of credit previously authorized;

(2)    An instruction to deposit money in an account with the financial institution;

(3)    An instruction to transfer money between one or more accounts maintained with the financial institution;

(4)    An instruction to apply money against an indebtedness to the financial institution; or

(5)    A request for information concerning the balance of the account with the financial institution.

Fuel dispensing device means a pump or other machine utilized for dispensing fuel to motor vehicles for a fee.

Motor Vehicle means a vehicle on wheels, having its own motor and not running on rails or tracks, for use on streets or highways; esp., an automobile, truck, or bus. (proposed language)

Pay telephone means any coin-operated or credit or debit card reader operated telephone located on any public or private property that is accessible for public use.

Parking meter means any coin-operated meter utilized to charge for parking a motor vehicle on public property.

Parking fee collection box means a device utilized to collect coins or currency as a charge for parking a motor vehicle on private property.

Public place means a street, sidewalk, or other place that is open to the public.

Request means any imperative instruction, whether verbal or non-verbal, by a solicitee to a solicitor to desist the solicitation including but not limited to words or gestures such as "stop," "back off," "stay back," "get away," "leave me alone," or "withdraw."

Solicitation means the act of panhandling by seeking through a communication with another person, whether by gesture or verbally, funds or goods for food, personal favors (such as trips, transportation, clothing, or other), drink, lodging, vehicle fare, or any other purpose to directly benefit an individual or his family members.

Solicitee means any individual to whom a solicitor, as defined herein, directs a solicitation.

Solicitor means any person who engages in the act of solicitation as defined above.

Transit facility means a facility that:

(1)    Is owned and operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO);

(2)    Constitutes a permanent and integral part of the transit system of METRO;

(3)    Is designed to serve as a point from which METRO patrons take ingress and egress from the METRO transit system; and

(4)    Includes one or more of the following structures: a sign or signs indicating a transit stop or pick-up point, a shelter for transit patrons or benches or chairs for transit patrons.

(b)   Immediately upon any request from a solicitee to a solicitor, a solicitor who is in a public place at the moment the request is made shall discontinue the solicitation until there is a space of at least eight feet between the solicitor and the solicitee or, in the alternative, discontinue all efforts to engage in the solicitation if within eight feet proximity to a requesting solicitee.

(c)    For the purposes of subsection (b) of this section, distance shall be measured from any extension of the solicitor's body, including without limitation any sign or other object being used or carried by the solicitor, to any part of the solicitee's body.

(d)   Regardless of whether any request is made by the solicitee to the solicitor, no solicitor shall engage in solicitation within a distance of eight feet from any ATM, pay telephone, parking meter, parking fee collection box, transit facility, fuel dispensing device, or outdoor dining establishment, including, but not limited to, a sidewalk cafe.

(e)    For the purposes of subsection (d) of this section, distance shall be measured from any extension of the solicitor's body, including without limitation any sign or other object being used or carried by the solicitor, to any part of the physical structure of the ATM, pay telephone, parking meter, parking fee collection box, transit facility, fuel dispensing device, or outdoor dining establishment, including but not limited to, a sidewalk cafe.

(f)    Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished as provided in section 1-6 of this Code.

(Ord. No. 92-390, § 2, 4-8-92; Ord. No. 92-1449, § 48, 11-4-92; Ord. No. 02-504, § 3, 6-12-02; Ord. No. 2011-655, §§ 2—4, 8-3-2011)

 

Proposed Aggressive Panhandling Zone

Council Member Green is working with the Civic Club Board and residents to find a solution to the aggressive panhandling problem at Post Oak and West Belfort. Surveillance cameras will be installed at Meyer Park and the Chase Bank to keep an eye on the aggressive panhandling situation. Council Member Green's office also provided several documents that will help our neighborhood work with surrounding neighborhoods and businesses to create a zone that will help reduce the aggressive panhandling in our neighborhood. This zone will require a petition in order for the zone to be created. The following documents were presented:

  1. A map of the proposed zone
  2. The language of the current City Ordinance governing the creation of the zone (see below)
  3. A proposed amendment to the existing City Ordinance regarding aggressive panhandling (see below)
  4. A previous, successful petition that created the East Downtown Zone

Please review these documents and contact the President of the Civic Club if you are interested in getting involved in reducing the aggressive panhandling in our neighborhood.

 

Houston Municipal Code Sec. 40-353. - Creation of designated areas.

(a)    This section shall govern the creation of a designated area within the city other than the central business district.

(b)   Residents of the city may petition the city council to designate any area within the city as a designated area under this article.

(c)    Any such petition must meet the following requirements to be considered by the city council:

(1)    Describe the proposed area by street boundaries;

(2)    Contain the signatures of property owners whose property represents 20 percent of the total area to be designated;

(3)    Contain the signatures of at least 100 citizens residing within the proposed area, each of whom was above the age of 18 years old when signing the petition;

(4)    Indicate that the signatures thereon were collected within a 60-calendar-day period; and

(5)    Indicate that the signatories thereon desire the area to be designated as an area subject to this article.

(d)   Any such petition must be submitted to the city secretary within 90 calendar days of the date of the first signature thereon.

(e)    Following the filing of any such petition with the city secretary, the city council shall, within 45 days of the date of filing, conduct a public hearing to consider the merits of the petition.

(f)    The city secretary shall give notice as to the filing of any such petition and the date, time,and place of the city council hearing by posting same at least 14 days in advance of such hearing at a place convenient to the public at the City Hall. Any interested person shall have the opportunity to participate in any hearing conducted under the provisions of this section and to present any relevant evidence and testimony.

(g)   The chief of police shall be requested to cause the proposed area to be investigated with regard to the existence of conduct in the proposed area that would be violative of this article if the proposed area were to be designated, along with any incidents of criminal misconduct in the proposed area, and to report the results of such investigation to the city council at or prior to the public hearing.

(h)    Following such hearing and upon review of the report of the chief of police, the city council shall establish the designated area as requested if it determines that:

(1)    The petition complies with the requirements of this section;

(2)    The proposed area exhibits the kinds of conduct and adverse impact on use of the sidewalks and adverse impact on adjacent properties that this article was intended to address; and

(3)    Designation of the proposed area would best serve the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

(i)     This section shall not be construed to limit the authority of city council consistent with the provisions of this section to designate other areas without a public petition; provided, that the city council receives evidence, substantiated by the police department, that a particular area within the city exhibits a significant incidence of the kinds of conduct addressed by this article and makes the findings required under subsection (h)(2) and (h)(3) of this section.

(Ord. No. 02-504, § 4, 6-12-02)

 


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Willow Meadows Civic Club
P.O. Box 35551
Houston, Texas 77235