Servicemembers from Camp Pendleton and local volunteers serve food at the Bread of Life Rescue Mission in Oceanside, Calif., Jan. 28. Nine Marines and one sailor, with the help of several community volunteers, prepared and served a free dinner for local homeless and others in need at the Mission.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Childers

Panhandlers in Chicago Win Class Action Lawsuit 

Chicago panhandlers can receive as much as $400 thanks to a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 5,000 panhandlers who claimed their civil right6s had been violated when they were arrested or ticketed while politely asking for money, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

The case, filed in federal court in 2001 and decided five days before Christmas, focused on a local disorderly conduct law that let police arrest people on public streets for drunkenness, lewdness, and panhandling. If arrested, the person could be fined up to $500. 

“Having a blanket prohibition like that isn’t legal,” says Mark Weinberg, one of the attorneys representing the panhandlers. “You can ask for help across the street, you can ask for the time, but if you asked me for a dollar the city could throw you in jail.” 

Federal magistrate Jan Nolan approved a settlement that calls for Chicago to pay $99,000 in damages. The city, which admits no wrongdoing, will also pay $375,000 to cover attorney fees and the cost of distributing the money. 

Not all panhandlers qualify; people who were cited or arrested only for panhandling and not other violations – are eligible. In addition, Chicago officials revoked the panhandling ordinance last year; a spokesman was quoted as saying that “the lawsuit helped us realize that (the o ordinance) was too broad and wasn’t going to be accepted legally. 

 

Police Bombard Homeless with Pepper Spray 

Six police officers in Apopka, Fla., face charges for firing pepper balls into a homeless camp, according to a local television. 

An internal investigation completed recently showed the officers had violated a number of department regulations in the September incident at the camp. Former Apopka Officer Brian Davis, who is now an Orange County deputy sheriff, reportedly revealed the incident while applying for his current job. 

No transients in the camp were injured. Punishment for the officers has not been announced. 

 

Pittsburgh Officials Call End to Bridge Encampment 

A makeshift homeless encampment with tents made of blankets has been targeted by the city of Pittsburgh, according to PittsburghChannel.com 

City crews are posting warnings this week telling the six people living under the Roberto Clemente Bridge that they have a week to remove their belongings before the city does it for them, says Public Works Director Guy Costa. 

The encampment was removed in November, but the occupants moved back. Under terms of a settlement in a lawsuit brought on behalf of the homeless people, the city must give seven days’ notice before clearing away an encampment, to give occupants time to move, and must store any personal belongings rather than discarding them. The bridge is a main thoroughfare to the new baseball stadium and is named for Roberto Clemente, Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

 

N.C. Homeless Men Accidentally Set House on Fire 

Two homeless men in North Carolina who were trying to stay warm unknowingly set a vacant house ablaze, causing around $45,000 in damage, fire officials tell the Greensboro News Record. 

The men were using a metal can filled with charcoal to heat up the house, but left the can burning when they went to sleep. The coals burned through the can, setting the wood floor on fire. “When our crews arrived, they found the two males, awoke them, and got them out” says Captain Denita Lynch, a spokesman for the High Point Fire Department. 

The homeless men, both 21 years old, were charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering. Lynch says that as the weather turns cold, people often look for shelter in abandoned homes, sometimes causing a fire. “This is a normal occurrence. We go through this every season.” 

 

For more national homeless news briefs, refer to Street Sense News Service’s website: www.streetnewsservice.org.