11 News Investigation: Panhandling Ban

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You may give them money, or walk right by. Panhandlers are a fixture in downtown Colorado Springs.

Right now city leaders are talking about putting a stop to panhandling in certain places. 11 News is working to get both sides of the debate.

I went undercover dressed as a panhandler. I was wearing casual clothes, and had a cardboard sign. It was an interesting experience. I was treated a lot like everyone else sitting on the corner asking for money.

"It doesn't exactly make me angry because I don't give money to them," one downtown shopper said..

"Whenever I see anyone really, if I have change, it's not a huge deal," another said after giving me a dollar.

"Ya, just downtown, there's a lot of homeless," one man said after walking past me.

However you feel about panhandlers in downtown Colorado Springs, they may soon be gone. Supporters of a proposed ban say it’s bad for business.

"There's so many [panhandlers] that it's kind of like, 'really?!'" one woman told me.

Not all those panhandlers you see are actually homeless. In fact, a lot of them aren't.

I sat for hours undetected by anyone asking, "can you spare a dollar or some change?"

"No, sorry,” answered one couple.

I sat on the corner of Pikes Peak and Nevada for a few hours and made nearly $10.

I took the money to a soup kitchen, the Marian House, to donate it and to get their opinion.

"The difficulty of giving money directly is we don't know the condition of any of the folks who may be asking, so we may be furthering a drug habit or alcoholism, things that are in the long term very harmful," Marian House president and CEO Mark Rohlena said.

Springs City Council members in support of a ban agree.

"Please don't give any more money to panhandlers, give it to the service providers that assist," councilwoman Lisa Czelatdko said.

Czelatdko told me there are still things that need to be worked out with the proposal.

"It concerns me because of the Salvation bell ringers around Christmastime. It concerns me when we have our amazing Wilbur Fountain in Acacia Park and the Friends Group come every year with a sign looking for support for the fountain," Czelatdko said.

After being on the other side, I understand, it can be hard to just walk by. But here’s something else to keep in mind: every time you give a dollar here, or a dollar there, if you add it up and give that to a charity, those cash donations are also tax deductible.

Czelatdko also told me the west side of the Springs, including Old Colorado City, is asking to be included in this ban too. So there's still a lot to talk about and work out before a final decision is made.

This will be a big topic at the next city council meeting on October 9, and they're expected to vote on October 23. The meetings start at 1 p.m. We'll be sure to let you know what they decide.