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The New Panhandling Sign Up For Discussion

So that everyone will be informed about the proposed panhandling sign being discussed at Tuesday's Selectboard meeting, here is the latest draft under consideration. (text below). This is the official Town version, unrelated to the one proposed by the downtown organization.

What say ye? An abomination? An improvement?


It is legal for people to carry signs
or to ask for money in public places.

Aggressive behavior can cause these activities to become illegal.

No one is allowed to follow, touch,
or threaten another person.

If you feel threatened, you can
call the Police at 802-257-7950
or dial 9-1-1 in an emergency.

If you need food, shelter, or other assistance, you can call 2-1-1 for referral to local service agencies.


Comments | 23

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First issue: Why is the

First issue: Why is the lettering explaining that asking for money is a protected right so much smaller and less pronounced than the "possible " crime aspect?
Second issue: if you're going to issue a warning that some action might become an arrestable offense shouldn't you also explain what those circumstances would be?
Third issue: What about the homeless who are panhandling and don't have a phone? How do they "call for help" and what if they need help at 7:05 PM when all the agencies that will treat you with respect are closed?
These or any signs are an incredibly useless way to address panhandling.
If someone is desperate for money or food does anyone believe that a confusing sign will deter them from panhandling?
All of this time, energy and, I'm guessing money would be much better spent actually addressing the problem of homelessness and poverty in this bucolic little town instead of worrying if one or two tourists from upstate New York might be offended by the sight of a homeless person. This is just stupid and a tiny bandaid over a large, gaping wound.


My error

This has been updated with the latest latest text..... courtesy of the Town Manager.

(The image was of the previous sign).

Those responsible for the sacking have been sacked.


How About...

"This is a Panhandling Free Zone" all less fortunate individuals compelled to strenuously pursue and plead for handouts to stave off hunger, no matter the excuse, stay back within a 15 ft circumference of this"protected" point ( being an ATM or Parking Meter) so patrons have a chance to shove change back in their pockets.

Then paint off area to be zoned with a cloaked silhouette figure with hand out (motioning) with slash (meaning No ) through it on pavement below. Does this work? or could this effort be in better taste, because it is exactly what the town is really saying so why not get the point across with fewer words and a universal symbol everyone (including those who can't afford glasses) can instantly understand instead, then they( those initiating the effort) might really see how ridiculous this whole notion is.
I like the idea of putting up the donation box for the homeless at these points instead of any so called deterrent sign, then stating the box is emptied before six pm to discourage break ins after hours.


Thank you so much for writing

Thank you so much for writing this comment. I hate what has been happening in this town around the issue of panhandling and the very real decision of "good citizens" vs those other people ( you know.. the ones who ask for money..)
From the various versions of signs to the ridiculous brouhaha over milk bottle deposits at the co-op it's reached a point where the underbelly of unkindness and lack of common sense has taken over our previous reputation as a lovely, progressive little artsy town filled with only the most well meaning people. Appreciate your insight and your very astute description of a possible solution


Hey KAlden, I value your

Hey KAlden, I value your concerned commentary as well, we all could extend a "hand- out" ward outside our own comfort zone to these displaced people, some of whom are cycled out from the Retreat not wanting or capable to return to their origins stuck in limbo and falling immediately back into a path of addiction so catered to in this present environment, thanks


Why mince words

Why continue to mince confusing words contained within this proposed notice, would it not be easier for the town to just post important contact numbers such as?:
If you as a patron of the downtown area feel are personally harassed, threatened or believe you are unlawfully approached and unsafe, you may immediately contact Police at this tel #...
or should this top the list...
If you feel you are endanger of starving or feel you may die from exposure to harsh elements being without shelter, you can (not so immediately) seek and find resources for help at these agencies and services tel. # (oh wait you don't own a cell phone, then what, maybe police can assist here too with an emergency # they can call for you)......

This eliminates confusing rules and laws involving such grey areas and discrepancies of conflict situations the police or social services for the homeless are better equipped to address in person when filling out a report or checking in a person in crisis, especially if there are those vulgar, nasty vagrants who do needlessly hassle shoppers( and they exist unfortunately), Because truth be told, if a policeman is not on the scene to witness mentioned occurrence what validity does finding fault really have in sorting out any given dispute of said zones or is the panhandler automatically guilty even when not knowing his/her bounds overridden by their own desperation? I would say such signs almost invite certain confrontations depending on who is misinterpreting the laws at any particular heated moment.
In my opinion you either have to have the constant,rational and reliable police presence downtown including parking lots or forget the proposed signage that can't be adequately enforced as it is a worthless as a three dollar bill and accusatory by association or...

as said before conspicuously paint out on pavement exact demarcation zones for "No Panhandling Permitted" which would I thinking not go over with the beautification people scaring off tourists. If you have the donation boxes for the homeless cause installed within these zones for the uncomfortable person who can when confronted by a panhandler say, "sorry, I already gave not giving preferential treatment to any particular individual" or wear a button that says so and just point to it.Then maybe we will see who actually cares and who doesn't by a button count.


The proposed donation boxes

The proposed donation boxes aren't as offensive or confusing as the signs but they still don't address the issue of someone existing on the street who needs immediate shelter or who hadn't eaten in 3 days. The collected donations ( which will be interesting to see how much is donated) will go to local organizations who offer services to the homeless but they aren't going to be available immediately so it's back to square one as to how we help these people in need in a timely manner.
Maybe the signs could actually give places for people to go to depending on their need.
Hungry? This church/ organization at this address is serving meals from this time to this time.
Need a blanket ? The Drop in Center on S. Main has extra blankets and sleeping bags on their back porch.
Need a bed for the night? Here is the address of the nearest shelter.
Need help getting clean or sober? Put your name on a list and wait and then wait some more.
In larger cities there are vans that drive around at night looking for homeless people and give out meals and blankets; hats and gloves in cold weather and contact information for longer time help- that does not require having a cell phone.
There is a small enough population of homeless people on Brattleboro ( not that it's not a much too large number but smaller in terms of many places) that it seems a van doing proactive outreach should be doable.
Of course first you have to believe that our homeless population exists and then you have to believe that they are worthy of a helping hand. And, I guess that's the catch..


Could Use Improvement

Hi Cgrotke,

I enjoyed reading your September 6th post on Selectboard Meeting Notes regarding pandhandling. You mentioned something about the sign clarifying it as illegal when it is near parking stations, ATMs, or when someone enters or exits a car. I like that part and think it will be helpful. Is that no longer going to the be rule?

Following, touching and threatening are obvious no-nos. I like the idea of clarifying rules, but pointing out what everyone knows seems like a waste. It's like putting up signs stating the law on assault and murder. People know it's wrong, they do it anyway, and are not going to stop themselves just because of some stupid sign. No one deserves to be followed, touched without invitation, or threatened for money, but is putting that on a sign really going to help? I agree with KAlden, it sounds useless.

Maybe I'm just being facetious, but I think they can do better.


last sign vs this sign

" illegal when it is near parking stations, ATMs, or when someone enters or exits a car"

Tim Wessel was pointing out at that last meeting that it isn't always the case that it IS illegal to ask for money in those locations. It MIGHT be, or it MIGHT NOT be depending on a wide variety of circumstances (who it is asking, who is being asked, time of day, manner of asking, etc.)

Above is the new text being presented to the board, which aims to point out that subtlety. It seemed like even with the revised wording, some board members might being having doubts about this one. They do, after all, have a number of other, probably better initiatives already underway - including gathering data so good decisions can be made. I'd wait on the sign till the data comes in that shows a sign will reduce whatever problem it addresses.


Signs. Signs. Everywhere a

Signs. Signs.
Everywhere a sign,
Blocking the scenary.
Breakin' my mind.
Can you read the sign??!!

I couldn't resist. So, out of curiosity why would it make a difference who was asking and who was being asked? If panhandling is illegal or a criminal act worthy of calling the police wouldn't it be illegal for everyone? Is it less arrest worthy if a woman is asking a man? If the person being asked is a 6"3" man or a 5"
thin woman? Does the act differ if an elderly person is the asker or the askee?
If we're going to attempt to make a First Amendment right illegal shouldn't we be absolutely sure what the parameters are? Does it vary from day to day? Morning to afternoon? Does it depend on which police officer responds? If the panhandler asks for money in a whisper is that better than using a normal tone of voice? So many unanswered questions!

In another conversation thread regarding the issue of signs and legality and compassion a member of the downtown business alliance( or whatever they call themselves) was chastizing those of us who disagreed with the sign proposal she had initiated. In response she asked us if- when she was cleaning feces off of all the business's doors early in the morning would we be there to help? That comment made me wonder if -sometime after midnight- there is a traveling band of panhandlers whose only purpose is to defecate on as many businesses as possible? And, apparently there is only one person cleaning it all up. Sad.
So, why doesn't the town hire some people to get up at dawn's early light ( maybe some of those pesky panhandlers would like the job?) and clean the feces from the downtown businesses? That way, when noon time rolled around and those 2 tourists from Maryland came into town to enjoy lunch for their first and only time- nobody would ever suspect that Brattleboro was a town that had some problems.
" Look at these sparkling storefronts! This must be a perfect little town!"
And, of course, the enormous amount of privilege raising it's well groomed little head would also be sparkling for all to admire.


it's a sign

"why would it make a difference who was asking and who was being asked?"

The way it was described at the meeting... it's whether or not you actually feel threatened.

I'm big and male, and someone asking me for money might not seem threatening TO ME in any way. So, no harm done.

If I were smaller and less able to defend myself, that same request might come across as a threat.

Even big and male, if someone grabbed me or verbally harassed me, I might feel less safe.

So, the point was, if you feel unsafe, you should call the police, but if you do not feel unsafe, there's really no reason to. The early draft of the signs said call police in all circumstances because panhandling was always illegal (at those locations).

And Tim's point was that asking for money, though, is legal. It's the behavior and perceptions around "the ask" that are really at issue.

And since it really depends on a really wide variety of details, it is proving hard to come up with a simple sign that explains the grey areas in full detail. It might be more effective to just put a lawyer in a box at each ATM.

In my view, signs aren't the answer. I submit "wet paint,' "speed limit," and "no parking" as examples. People who follow the laws might like them as reminders, but those breaking rules don't care and don't follow them.


Other signs

Maybe we need:

"It is legal to have a big knife, but if you stab someone it is illegal. No one is allowed to stab anyone else. If you have been stabbed, call the police. If you need a knife sharpened, stop by Brown & Roberts."


"It's legal to walk around town, but if you break and enter it is a crime. No one is allowed to break and enter. If your residence has been burglarized, call the police. If you need a list of nice places to walk around, stop by the Chamber of Commerce."


I think any of the signs or

I think any of the signs or markings mentioned in this thread make much more sense than the sign that is being considered. At least these signs- facetious as they may be- say exactly what they mean. Clarity is a good thing.


Basically my point is....

Basically my grievance with this current sign proposal is that it insinuates Panhandlers are the most likely perpetrators who may show aggression, possibly whacking the innocent bystander over the head with their signs if they don't happen or refuse to pay up on demand at potential money exchange sources ( which really could be only asking). If you follow the proposed sign's sequence of statements and wording it's as if it were saying... therefore.. knowing this, this is your legal recourse and right. Oh and by the way we will throw a bone toward the homeless in the last line to seek balance and final semblance.

This automatically imprints and superimposes the image people reading will see as "Beware of the Homeless asking for Help" they could turn on you and get ugly if you deny them handouts, avoid at all possible risks and ignore, seek immunity and protection in the designated Zone when handling exposed money as "not" described. This is an unnecessary scare tactic that will cause more trouble as I see it for those trying to figure out why this sign has all of a sudden been posted.

I think the only people the town are really addressing or appeasing here are those patrons appalled at the homeless condition and want it to go away because the people who can give to their need once in a while aren't complaining as far as I know.

The women who tried to draw a parallel connecting these occurrences of poop stooping to those of general panhandling has made a major leap only landing in the poop she talking about in order rid herself of nighttime loiterers with one full swoop or scoop. Yes, this (unsanitary human defecation) in public pathways is terrible, gross and no laughing matter and I believe would be some violation of a town ordinance worthy of putting in a nanny cam to catch perpetrator, but is a stretch to stroke over and attach this image and indecent mode of behavior to the plain act of panhandling.
Yes their are bad apples out there and you can call the police without some sign telling you to do so! Some people want an instant solution to their problems by telling this faction of society they just shouldn't exist and tarnish the scenery, but they do and most likely always will. Not to sound self righteous, but who knows with enough bad luck you (the sign reader) could find yourself in a similar dire situation, let's hope not.


You can't tell but I am

You can't tell but I am applauding your comment.
Where's all the emojis when you need them????



I felt today's VPR's piece by Howard Weiss Tiseman on Brattleboro's panhandling dilema did not adequately cover one of the key elements that developed from the initial controversy that arose from the town's reaction to post signs, really not mentioned or skipped over briefly at best substituting the hand outs as a solution instead I heard little about from the beginning especially concerning their content or was this the same as the sign's message?


Ugh I can't even...

Oh, but I will. That article made me angrier than I have felt in a while. Inaccuracies aside, the entire spirit of this article was flat, and incomplete. I have formally complained to them and have made the following public comments on the article:

"As Vice Chair of the Brattleboro Selectboard, I do not find this article to be a true representation of the conversation. Starting with the fact that it was not the Selectboard who sought to create a flyer, our dialogue has been focused on compassion, and holistic solutions, including speaking with people who are panhandling, not seeking to use legal action to stop it, but rather, using humanity and creativity, and common sense to address root causes and treat people as humans. I would suggest reviewing past Selectboard meetings on Brattleboro Community Television, following Selectboard pages such as Brandie E. Starr-Brattleboro Selectboard and Tim Wessel - Brattleboro Selectboard and asking more questions before publishing articles on topics involving hard work, and helping human beings".

A long time VPR lover, now sorely disappointed. This comment was meant to go under rootrunner's comment but I may have messed that up; just FYI


No your good

Thank you for your prompt response to clear up some of the confusion or misrepresentation contained in this VPR story on the select boards actual position and work done.RR


My response to the VPR story

This story is a wildly inaccurate description of what is actually happening with the panhandling situation. First of all it was not the Selectboard who initiated the discussion of putting up signs or flyers warning people not to panhandle. It was a representative from the Brattleboro downtown alliance whose membership is comprised of business owners. The sign that they came up with was turned away by not only The Selectboard but by social service agencies who work with the homeless. It was determined to be worded in a punitive, confusing and hostile manner and was not in keeping with what town leadership wanted: a humane, compassionate and legal way to begin to deal with the issue of panhandling. The Selectboard has not designed or given out any flyers telling people it is illegal to panhandle. It is a First Amenment right and absolutely legal.
What is not legal is to physically accost someone while panhandling( or any other time) or to threaten someone. There is a lot of time and energy being put into finding a compassionate solution to this.
Nothing is helped when inaccurate, poorly researched and badly written stories appear about a situation that this reporter obviously could not be bothered to find factual information about. Find out what the situation is and then rewrite this story so it focuses on what is honestly happening in Brattleboro regarding this issue. If you can't be bothered to write the facts then you shouldn't be writing public pieces.


Thank you

I have reached out from VPR and got the response that they would pass my concerns on to Howard for consideration when writing about this topic in the future. :|



I believe VPR owes us here in Brattleboro a re-do or at least to try and make a short follow up statement to the effect this story with all it's factual inconsistencies and inaccuracies was not the type reporting that could be well received by those of us members of the community who happened to be listening and expect a better representation of the facts that have unfolded. All the reporter had to do was read ibrattleboro's coverage or check the select board minutes!!
I did appreciate the on the street interview in the story of a few homeless people here in town that gave their account and perspective.


Not since Susan Keese...

VPR never calls us to comment... : )


This is worth a read:

Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness By 91 Percent; Here's How (December 10, 2015 - Heard on All Things Considered )

…and they saved money doing it!

If Utah can do it, so can Vermont


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