The Missoula City Council is weighing whether to tighten up two ordinances adopted to discourage panhandling and other types of behavior downtown. Currently, people are barred from sitting, sleeping or lying on a sidewalk within twelve feet of an entrance to a building. Proposed changes would increase that to twenty feet.
People would also be restricted from sitting, sleeping or lying on a public sidewalk, or on a blanket, chair, stool or any other object placed upon a public sidewalk between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm in an area known as the Downtown Business Improvement District.
Currently, people are not allowed to panhandle within six feet of an entrance to a building, but amendments would bring that number of to twenty feet.
The amendments are proposed by Councilwoman Caitlin Copple. In an email exchange between her and fellow council members, Copple stated “This is not in fact an ordinance to criminalize homelessness; rather, it's about giving police the tools they need to reduce bad behavior downtown.”
Councilmember Bob Jaffe said he would support tighter rules on panhandling but as far as the sitting/ sleeping changes, he tells NBC Montana that he wants to know where people are supposed to go.
“They don’t cease to exist by us saying you can't be here, so it's important to know where are they going to go,” said Jaffe.