16th Street MallLooks like there is more confusion among city and quasi-governmental agencies about what to do with the homeless population downtown. This time people are questioning how to handle the panhandlers that harass tourists and office workers along the 16th Street Mall. In one corner is the Denver City Council, a committee that voted unanimously this week to re-evaluate the existing anti-panhandling laws on the books in Denver to potentially allow limitless panhandling.  In the other corner is the Downtown Denver Partnership, a group that for the longest time has been trying to crack the code on the homeless problem around the 16th Street Mall.

Denver actually has some relatively strict panhandling ordinances on the books.  Currently, you cannot beg for money after dark, or look for handouts on trains, or near ATMs and restaurant patios.  You cannot ask people more than once after they have said no. Under the proposed changes, panhandlers will still not be allowed to touch their targets, that is still off limits, thankfully.  But for all of this other stuff – game on.

Why the change?  Denver City Council is concerned about coming into compliance with a federal court ruling that was handed down earlier this month in favor of Greenpeace and Humanists Doing Good in their challenge to the Grand Junction panhandling ordnance. In 2014, Grand Junction passed a law that prohibited numerous panhandling activities, such as soliciting an at-risk person, begging in confined spaces such as parking garages and public buses, near schools or ATMs, and in the vicinity of outdoor restaurant patios.

Yes, so those annoying Greenpeace and Planned Parenthood solicitors will now be able to accost folks just trying to enjoy the scenery on the Earl’s first floor patio.  Great.

While this is being debated, the self-described quasi-governmental Business Improvement District (BID), part of the Downtown Denver Partnership, isn’t going to just roll over.  Those guys take a pretty dim view of the homeless population, at least the ones who choose to camp out (both literally and figuratively) on the BID turf.  They even hired KPMG to do a study on making the area safer, which resulted in the suggestion of a private security force walking the beat.  We are not sure if these guys will be more like Paul Blart, Mall Cop or Blackwater, but we are pretty certain that we could have come up with some recommendations for a lot less money than KPMG probably charged.  Hint:  get rid of all the excess seating areas, pianos, and the dirty free shuttle buses.