Nicollet Mall redesign brings scrutiny upon panhandling

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A $50 million redesign of Nicollet Mall is currently in the planning process, with construction work set to begin as soon as next year and finish by the end of 2016.

But with downtown building owners expected to pay for about half of the project via assessments, the Downtown Council is talking openly about quelling "livability" issues like panhandling (and homelessness, but we'll focus on that another time) that make downtown a less attractive destination for investors, shoppers, and potential residents.

See also:
Minneapolis street homelessness down as Duluth approves Homeless Bill of Rights

In a report entitled "Nicollet Mall's next obstacle: Panhandlers," Finance and Commerce's James Warden writes that downtown officials are taking on panhandling and homelessness "for humanitarian reasons and because tenants and property owners worry that it makes business more difficult."

We got in touch with Mikkel Beckmen, director of the office to end homelessness for Hennepin County, and asked what he thinks about the scrutiny panhandlers are under ahead of the Nicollet Mall redesign and rebuild.

"It's been nice that the city -- including City Attorney Susan Segal -- have said, 'We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem,'" Beckmen says. "There's no interest on behalf of Hennepin County to arrest ourselves out of this problem."

At any given time there are about 200 people panhandling in the city, according to Beckmen.

"The question becomes, what could be done to lessen the impact of panhandling?" Beckmen says. "When we've asked the St. Stephen's street outreach workers to interview panhandlers, one [finding] is that it's really degrading -- 'I'd rather not be doing this.' Most folks who are on the street don't panhandle because they can't bring themselves to do it."

On the other side of the coin, Beckmen says, "People who give to panhandlers, they feel bad and are having a visceral reaction to someone who is distressed and needs help."

Beckmen points out that the Downtown Council's efforts include the Give Real Change initiative, which asks people to "Say 'No' to Panhandling and 'Yes' to Giving" to organizations devoted to ending homelessness.

In general, panhandlers report that they'd rather be working than begging. "So some of our strategies as a committee related to panhandling and street homelessness is to create some employment opportunities and meaningful daytime activities," Beckmen says.

We asked Beckmen if there's any tension between organizations like his and business interests in downtown Minneapolis when it comes to issues surrounding panhandling and homelessness.

"I haven't had any pushback," he replies. "Ultimately people want to do stuff that's effective. What other cities have done in other parts of the country where they've criminalized homelessness and other behaviors, it just doesn't work."

"It doesn't make sense to clog the county court system with people who are going to come back and be out on the streets again," Beckmen continues.

But if all else fails, the Minneapolis Police Department does maintain a list of chronic offenders who are barred from being downtown for a variety of reasons. At the end of last month there were 39 people on the list. To see pictures of all of them along with a brief description of their offenses, click to page three.

With regard to that list, Beckmen says, "My recommendation when I first started was not criminalizing livability crimes."

(For more, click to page two.)


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38 comments
Michael Roach
Michael Roach

You know in Chicago you have to have a license to panhandle if the police ask to see it and you don't have it you go to jail. Just that simple

Chris L Nerlien
Chris L Nerlien

I'm tired of this simplistic rhetoric concerning the homeless. If you don't want them around then do something to help their plight 'cause constant complaining about it accomplishes nothing. Sorry your existence is disrupted by the presence of other human beings when you are in public.

Kaia Rubin
Kaia Rubin

I don't mind the buskers and the panhandlers as much as it's the preachers that annoy me the most. No one likes being yelled at or called a whore amongst other things whilst waiting for the bus ! As far as those kids that hang out starting shit, there is nothing for them to do downtown. No arcades, no record stores, no skate parks absolutely NOTHING so, it's no wonder they're fucking around getting into trouble with the law.

Jessica Dupre
Jessica Dupre

Charles Fourness you're a selfish human being. You think that they should keep the pan handlers in MY community because you're afraid they'll go to yours? Have some respect for the people who live in Downtown that own homes and pay taxes. WE deserve a safe neighborhood as well.

David Duerre
David Duerre

I worked as a valet downtown for years, believe me they aren't begging for food. Some of these people just break stuff and threaten people all day long, if anything we need to ban more people. Set them up in a nice cottage out in the woods somewhere.

Matthew Tj B
Matthew Tj B

I do that as well, Dorothy Day and Harbor Lights. Volunteer any time I can. Believe that.

Shawn Laughton
Shawn Laughton

It's not just the homeless people. They're not even close to a problem as the teen and young adults committing crimes up and down Nicollet mall all day. Same people day in and day out. Open your eyes. And handing out money isn't helping anyone genius. You wanna help donate your time as a volunteer or give money to the homeless shelter and organizations.

LaDonna Perez
LaDonna Perez

I know, I talked to a few officers Downtown and they said that they felt the same way but it was out of of their hands because of that. "thanks for your reply Mary."

Mary Aho
Mary Aho

You might first have to work on getting the 1st Amendment thingy overturned before having much luck with that.

Mary Aho
Mary Aho

Of course the ban against pan handling could be considered against the ethos of a free country but whatevs.

Kristine Chattin
Kristine Chattin

... and I've given a $20 a few times to those I thought deserving.

Kristine Chattin
Kristine Chattin

I just had a begger last month try and snatch money from my bare hands, he was drunk and I kicked him where it counts for it.

Lynda Lerum
Lynda Lerum

Is that why I haven't been downtown in a very long time? Am I a pan handler?

Darrian Kaye
Darrian Kaye

If they have $50 million to redesign nicollet mall for no reason they have enough money to buy a mansion for every homeless person in minneapolis. Take one million out of that 50 and you could feed every one of those 200 panhandlers for a year and buy them a home. Its concerning that the city is trying to paint their ambitions as humanitarian when really its about catering to the tourists with money. They dont care about preventing homelessness because they wont profit from that.

Charles Fourness
Charles Fourness

I think if I could make more money working outside of Minneapolis, I wouldn't know how good it is to live away from it. But if they begin barring those people from what they do there, they migrate over into the nice places, so I'm quite against them taking away their mall privileges?

Matthew Tj B
Matthew Tj B

This is dumb! Im a very successful and professional worker in St. Paul. I help out the homeless as much as I can. Now im just going to dress like a bum and bother all you ignorant people downtown Mpls. OR start handing out money to them like I do in St Paul. Not everyone grew up in a good environment or "had it made". Ive been down on my luck and was in that position a few times. Only if you saw me now!!

LaDonna Perez
LaDonna Perez

Wish the MPD could do something about the extremely annoying people preaching on the corner of 7th and nicollet, After working all day that's the last thing I want to hear while I wait for my bus to go home ,Whatever happened to disturbance of the peace! !!!!,They are so loud some days you can't hold a conversation with anyone or you get an after work migraine. !!!! ,So not right! !!!!! .

Justin Carmichelle
Justin Carmichelle

Spitting is a charge worthy of Barring someone over? Is this Virginia Beach Now?

Chris LeBlanc
Chris LeBlanc

Thank you St. Stephen's for doing really good work and helping people who need it.

John Bunch
John Bunch

Because they are intoxicated and/or threaten or assault people.

Lindsey Clarke
Lindsey Clarke

Get the panhandlers off the mall, put some interesting things to do instead of confusing tourists and natives on why it's called "mall" when there is empty buildings and offices and maybe it will be a place to go again

Lisa Kristine
Lisa Kristine

Oh judging, is there anything more self-satisfying?

Dallas West
Dallas West

I do feel bad for some of these people down there, but there are plenty of outreach teams connecting with people that really want help rather than a handout. Yes, there are regulars down there too that are just working the area...for coins, dollars...anything you will give. It's up to you if you want to give or walk right past. I don't buy into it. I have other charities that I give to. I just hope the one's that really need it find the help they need to get back on their feet. I would rather give money to the outreach teams....

Kaelynn Dusosky
Kaelynn Dusosky

Interesting article, let's not focus on the typo. Instead focus on the problem at hand... Half of these "homeless" people would prefer a bottle of booze instead of a nice meal. #truth

Jerm Wobbe
Jerm Wobbe

NO ONE IN MINNEAPOLIS IS HUNGRY. ALL THESE PANHANDLERS YOU SEE OUT THERE HAVE AT LEAST 200$ IN FOOD STAMPS EACH MONTH. THEY ARE PREYING ON YOUR EMOTIONS...THEYRE NOTHIN BUT SCAM ARTISTS.

Cathy Bailey
Cathy Bailey

Grammar cops working hard today!!! Good job!

Daniel Newkirk
Daniel Newkirk

Idiots. City Pages finally writes a decent story and all you see is a typo.

dorkeyes
dorkeyes

And how about all the northsiders? How are we going to get rid of them? 

Pinko Thinker
Pinko Thinker

i love the smell of typos in the morning. smells like scruntiny!

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