Panhandling in Rockford on the increase after court ruling made it legal

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Panhandling in Rockford is on the rise because a federal district court judge struck down a law that prohibited it.

A federal district court in Chicago found the state law unconstitutional in January.

On Monday, the City of Rockford said the majority of panhandlers at city intersections are not homeless, and are using panhandling as a way to supplement their income.

Eyewitness News spoke with a man named Tommy, who was panhandling at a street corner on Tuesday. He said he could make between $40-$50 an hour on his corner.

“I have not met one person out here that claims to be homeless that’s not,” he said. “Every single one I know here in Rockford is. Every single one. And I’ve been out here for over a year.”

Angie Walker, the Homeless Program Coordinator for the City of Rockford, said city staff check panhandler’s living arrangments.

“A couple of times a week, at least, she does go out – she actually makes contact with the panhandlers when she can find them, talks to them about: do they have a place to stay? Where are they staying?” she said.

“It’s legal,” Tommy said. “So, where people were hidden more, now they’re not. Now they see there’s an option that they can do.”

The Rockford Rescue Mission has said that, in lieu of money, citizens should give panhandlers a referral card for Rescue Mission services if they’re approached in their cars by a panhandler.

Correction: the headline initially identified the Illinois Supreme Court as making the ruling.

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