Why don’t the police arrest people for panhandling?

Panhandling – simply asking for money -- is protected as free speech by the U.S. Constitution. The City of Missoula has ordinances in place that prohibit aggressive panhandling – following people to their cars and repeatedly demanding money, panhandling within certain distances of bank machines and outdoor dining and holding up signs that are not truthful. Police officers can cite people for these offenses. However, those tickets are often a case of attempting to extract fines from people with no money and who are disproportionately harmed by a record of offenses when they attempt to get housing. Missoula’s Downtown Police Officer helps redirect behaviors as well as issue tickets.

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1. Why has Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness not ended homelessness?
2. Why is local government allowing people to live outdoors, some in “encampments”?
3. Why don’t the police arrest people for panhandling?
4. Why don’t police arrest people who are drunk in public, for instance on the Courthouse lawn?
5. Most homeless people are from other places. Why do we take care of them?
6. What about the public health concerns about trash building up in camps?
7. Why doesn’t the City make the Reserve Street bridge riverfront area into a park?
8. Is Missoula in line to become the next Portland, Seattle or San Francisco in number of people experiencing homelessness?