Firefighters exempt from panhandling ordinance
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — The City of El Paso is putting a stop to what they call "aggressive solicitation." A new ordinance affects panhandlers and anyone who asks for money within 15 feet of a street corner or median. However, the ordinance does not affect firefighters.
While pedestrians in El Paso were more than willing to share their thoughts on the new city ordinance, the panhandlers themselves were less eager to do so. One man who was holding up a sign moments before we took our cameras out, placed it behind his back. Another man who was weaving in and out of traffic right off I-10 and Mesa claimed he works with United Restoration Ministries. He, too refused to speak with us.
"He is putting his life in danger trying to cross the street or for any little reason trying to get a dollar, quarters, whatever," Samuel Sagala, a West El Paso resident said.
Neither panhandler nor fundraiser gave us their names, but starting Tuesday it doesn't matter if they're fundraising or looking for a handout. If they're within 15 feet of a street corner or median, they will be cited. Those who donate will also be ticketed.
"It's dangerous all around for everybody around. Anybody can get hurt," Armando Aguilar, another West El Paso resident told us. Someone did get hurt. Back in 2009, a panhandler was killed after attempting to cross a Central El Paso street for money.
"It's a distraction to drivers also," Aguilar exclaimed. But this distraction will still be allowed for one group. Under state law, Firefighters are allowed to fundraise on city streets.
"We're using every safety precaution during the boot drive, we don't want to put anyone in harm's way at all. Whether it be a firefighter or a motorist," Joe Tellez, President of the El Paso Association of Fire Fighters told us.
He also says this is important because the money they raise for the "Fill Up Your Boot Drive" on May 17th goes towards an important cause.
"70-percent of the money collected stays here in town to help people afflicted with neuromuscular disease," Tellez explained.