• Homeless Union of GSO



On Tuesday, 5/15/2018, Greensboro City Council voted on a 5-4 vote to keep a panhandling law in place, but because of procedural rules, any law that only passes by one vote must be voted on twice in order to go into effect. This means there is no current panhandling ordinance in Greensboro - but the council may vote to reinstate it in two weeks, leaving the city vulnerable to civil rights litigation. Letters from many national and local law firms have warned that the language of the current ordinance has already been struck down in courts around the country, and the likelihood that this law will pass constitutional muster are slim. Gate City Legal Services has already retained three clients who want to file a complaint in case this ordinance goes into effect. Since 2014, 100% of panhandling laws have been struck down when challenged in Federal Court. Panhandling and homeless people are not going away -  but this law will!

Defending unconstitutional and immoral laws....

Defending unconstitutional and immoral laws....

In a 5-4 vote, the Greensboro City Council voted to keep a law which lawyers have warned violates the constitutional rights of its citizens. Councilmembers Kennedy, Wells, Johnson and Hightower voted against the ordinance, suggesting that the city work on constructive alternatives to criminalization rather than single out one demographic of people.Councilmembers Thurm, Outling, Abuzwaiter, Hoffman and Mayor Vaughan defended the law despite warnings from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the ACLU of NC and several local lawyers who warned it violated citizen's constitutional rights.The Homeless Union of Greensboro offered gave the council a document entitled, "Fight Poverty, not the Poor: Constructive Alternatives to Criminalizing Poverty in Greensboro", which outlines policy initiatives that would actually reduce homelessness and panhandling, while also respecting constitutional rights. Councilmembers chose to ignore alternatives and rush towards litigation.Read about Constructive Alternatives to Criminalization here

Lawyers Warned: Panhandling Laws are Unconstitutional 

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, The ACLU of North Carolina and several local lawyers wrote to the council and warned them their current ordinance will not pass court scrutiny.

Read the letters here:  ACLU of NC National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty Holt, Aberle, & Former Atty. Pitts

Every aspect of this law has already been struck down by the courts

The ACLU of North Carolina has provided the council with the above chart - showing that every portion of the current ordinance is unconstitutional and has been struck down when tried in federal court.  The sections that are not marked are due to the fact that Grand Junction's ordinance did not include those sections of the law (hence, the court didn't rule on that portion in that case).COMMUNITY WON'T BACK DOWN: WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO SURVIVE AND NOT BE CRIMINALIZEDThe City Council has promised that they will hold open conversations with the community before voting again. We know that the City Attorney is aggressively soliciting evidence from business owners to try and build a legal defense for an unconstitutional law, but we'll engage the conversation anyhow.  The council has gotten recommendations for constructive alternatives - things which would actually reduce poverty without trampling on people's rights - and they've promised to have a transparent process with community engagement moving forward.   It's up to Council to make sure that homeless people are actually represented in their "community conversations". And if they pass this thing and implement it - then we'll win in court.

100% of cases

challenging Panhandling Laws

since 2014

have succeeded in striking down

speech restrictions.Read More

We, the Homeless Union of Greensboro are comprised of the homeless community and those who support our cause. We are committed to addressing issues that arise from experiences of homelessness based on the priorities of people experiencing homelessness themselves. No longer will we sit idly by while others make decisions affecting our ability to live and thrive in this city. We have a voice, and a face, and we insist on having a seat at the table when decisions are made which affect people experiencing homelessness in Greensboro and Guilford County.


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