City handling panhandlers the right way

Handling panhandling can be a delicate situation.
Oct 10, 2013


We commend the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety for the way officers are dealing with the few incidents that occur here.

We also encourage those who truly need help to apply for food stamps and to contact local agencies such as Love INC or The Salvation Army instead of holding signs at area intersections.

It’s troubling for motorists who would really like to help, but remember reading or hearing about how some panhandlers drive away in new cars when they leave their locations. Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said his officers recently followed a panhandler and found him getting into a shiny new pickup truck.

It is against the city ordinance to panhandle in Grand Haven, but a recent court ruling in a Grand Rapids case said it is unconstitutional to arrest someone for panhandling.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids ruled that the law violated the First Amendment. This was affirmed last August by a federal appeals court, but may be appealed further.

The Grand Haven ordinance states that it is unlawful for any person to accost, molest, beg, panhandle or willfully annoy another person.

Hawke said his department occasionally receives reports of panhandlers. Grand Haven officers who respond seek to determine what type of assistance the person may need — shelter, food, transportation or something else.

Once the need is determined, officers make contact on behalf of the person in need with community agencies and organizations that provide assistance. Officers may also provide direct assistance, such as transportation to a shelter.

If the officer determines that the person is not truly in need, they are asked to discontinue the activity and a warning is issued for violating the city ordinance. If the activity continues, the person could be cited for the ordinance violation, Hawke said.

Hawke is quick to add that there is a line between accosting, approaching, molesting and willfully annoying someone — as stated in the ordinance — versus peacefully and silently holding a sign.

Each case and incident must be evaluated independently and appropriate discretion applied for those that need and are seeking assistance.

The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety is watching closely as the Grand Rapids case progresses through the court system.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



Just remember, there is a difference between panhandling and busking.

Back to the Wall

Please elucidate.

I was recently thinking that panhandling could be regulated under the same city ordinance that regulates street performers such as mimes, jugglers and musicians.

In the broadest definition it is all acting - a production intended to stir emotion - and, in these cases, create a financial return.


Apolgies to Orvis, but let me try to elucidate. I have no hope of changing your mind, however let me try and explain the differences as I see it. Using musicians, as I used to busk a bit when I was much younger

A busker shares his talent or skill on the street with folks as they come and go. He plys his trade whether he has an audience, or not. There is no unwanted contact between the two parties. The busker plays and sings and the passer-by can either ignore him and continue on, or stop and listen and enjoy the song. At no time does the busker make protestations to ask for money, he offers his talent and simply has his instrument case open for possible donations. There is no guilt involved in stopping to listen. You can either listen and move on without a donation, or you can drop a buck or three in the case. It's entirely up to the listener, the course he chooses when the song ends. If done correctly the busker or street performer can add interest and quality to the experience of visiting the area.

A panhandler on the other hand. Stands on a prescribed spot of his choosing, doing nothing, but holding a sign with his message, which usally includes the words "please help". He offers nothing in return for the spare change he desires. He works to some degree using guilt as a way to receive something for nothing. He has no obvious talent while standing there with his sign and if anything possibly makes folks uncomfortable enough to avoid the area.

That's the differences as I see 'em......YMMV


As a person that working in the Human Service field, I have personally handed several of these "panhandlers" flyers for agencies that can assist them. Love Inc, Salvation Army, Lakeshore Pregnancy Center... believe it or not, Grand Haven does have people in need, but we also have agencies that are willing and able to help people help themselves. You will never get a $ from my pocket, but I will help where I can.


I have worked in that field as a professional for many years and I totally agree with "justsayin" and today I hand out coupons for free food from local restaurants, including jobs and housing leads. You will not get $ from my pocket either, but I will try to teach them how to fish.


There is a panhandler that hangs out by the old Perkins on Harvey and Sternberg Rds. that drives a newer dodge pickup truck! Are people helping him make his truck payments?? Another was near Bob Evans sitting in the shade taking a smoke break, 10 minutes later on our return trip he was panhandling!! No way would I donate to help someone buy booze or cigarettes........


This article, and the comments, simply prove what an uncaring area Grand Haven is. The Republicans and Ted Cruz have forced our President into the unfortunate economic decisions he has made, causing widespread unemployment. The Republicans have attempted to reduce taxes and spending on the programs these poor people rely on: SNAP, mortgage and rent subsidies, Earned Income Tax Credits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Utilities Assistance, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, and of course, Obamaphones.

And, these panhandlers are really entrepreneurs - something the Republicans allegedly support - going out of their way to supplement their Taxpayer provided benefits. And as far as the guy with the new pickup truck - do you really believe that he doesn't deserve reliable transportation to his gig?

To add insult to injury, the City will next require an ID to determine whether the person is truly needy - clearly an unconstitutional attempt to disenfranchise the rights of bums, er, panhandlers.


ha ha


Holy Moly, you are one sick, twisted person.

Up until that last little paragraph, I was thinking you'd lost your mind and were serious about all that stuff you said in the first two paragraphs. My head almost exploded, but I should've known better.

It's your group that would rather we just eliminate the surplus population, starting with those who just happen to fall on hard times and need a hand to help them get back up. So, why would you care about any of this stuff right? You got yours right? that's all that matters, to people like you.

Good lord. Thanks for the droll humor and the headache.


You're welcome.


What? HA, HA, HA, this is one of the most caring and successful Counties in the state of Michigan and for a reason.


That's it, they need a union. Hope they don't go on strike tho cuz we wouldn't have anywhere to deposit our useless change. Hey Vlad, give me a light, I can't keep this rolled up twenty burning.


Bbbwwwaaahahahahaha...(panhandler - wouldn't it be a great costume for you, Vlad, at this year's Halloween Party?)


Thanks Vlad for helping us keep focus on what many will try and make a serious problem. This is akin to the traffic problems "we" like to think we have, anybody buying into these issues has clearly never lived anywhere where a real problem exists.

Want to see real issues; drive around Detroit for a day.


Yesterday 5:30 as we were driving north on 31, there was a GH city panhandler of Burger King corner at Robbins Road and 1st car stop position. He with large cardboard sign still there past 6Pm as we returned GHT going east on Robbins from downtown. Within GH city limits yet visible to Sheriff, SP too of these two busy traffic routes then, no authority relocated this man from his dangerous unsafe spot re distracted drivers, right turns on red etc.


So, ever hear of spellcheck, or grammar? I'd need an advanced degree in Eubonics to get to the bottom of that one, but I'd guess it's got something to do with panhandlers and Burger King.




Yeah, that's what I thought.




lol! Don't go to Burger Fling, try Culvers...much better fare and same amount of dough. Their pot roast dinners are quite good. I eat there occasionally although I'm not a Dining Diva......

Isn't it a bit ironic that someone would panhandle outside of a Burger King? They're always looking for help with the high turnover and if you got a gig there you could always snitch french fries when no ones looking.....

EDIT: where'd ya go Citizen? Somebody threaten you?


I confess I felt a bit of guilt and lost my nerve, despite the greatness of my pun!

I will second your Culvers recommendation.


My Son applied at BK last night because they ARE hiring, I love him but he’ll be the aloof and confused teen behind the counter you will talk about for the next three hours or 150 miles as you begrudgingly eat the burger you didn’t order washing it down with a sprite instead of Diet Coke knowing soon you will begin to fall asleep behind the wheel….if he gets hired don’t say I didn’t warn you!
As for the panhandlers we had them on every corner when I lived in Tulsa, they knock on your window when you’re at a light and tell you they are sick and need money for food. Fortunately most businesses would keep them from swarming you when you went to and from your car and at some point the police started making them move away from the streets after a couple were hit when the light changed.

In my experience and unfortunately the “will work for food” panhandlers were not genuine, on several occasions I’d offer to let the family eat with us, do laundry, shower or whatever they needed plus groceries for helping around the house…not one ever took me up on it but day after day there they were there with a bucket and sign “will work for food” so I am a little jaundiced and tend to just say no opting to give to organizations such as my church or the red cross. It is just too difficult to discern who is falling through the cracks and genuinely needs short term immediate help and those who are simply stealing. With so many charities in this area I tend to think most are simply trying to steal from us.
I also endorse Culvers as the best burger (and other stuff) in town...the motion is carried!


One can only hope that if this is an example and the end result of a Tri-Cities education, that the individual is extremely advanced in years. Hopefully procedures and policies have been put in place to raise the bar, so to speak, to eliminate the moronic babbling of an imbecile.

Right, there but for the gift...I get it!


this is funny, just like sitting down at the Rendezvous listing to the locals


Yes, but this is cholesterol and sodium free…no gluten either!


anyone remember phil harris, he lived in the woods on north side of town ? they shipped him down to florida, never seen since

Back to the Wall

I remember Phil, and think about him often. He was a GH original. I spoke with him a few times; he could be quite lucid when he was off the sauce.

Part of me wants to know the true story, part of me wants to believe a happy fairy tale.


so those people going door to door trying to sell bible's or whatever are violating city ordinace? good to know.


thats true, you remember the fuller brush man or the guy selling electrolux vacuum cleaners, no longer allowed, so much for honest guy trying to make living


I will be panhandling when my health insurance premiums go up 144 percent in 2014. O'drama said the average family would save $2500.00. So, please tell me what is wrong with trying to fight that? Dope in van? Distant Michael? Bet you can't .



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