Homeless Push Back against American Fork’s ordinance

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Homeless people are pushing back against another Utah City for its ordinance which bans panhandling.

American Fork police officers have cited homeless man Steve Evans three times for standing on street corners with a sign requesting financial help. Evans sued the city, saying the ordinance is a violation of his first amendment rights.

Darren Curtis also knows what it’s like to have to panhandle to survive. When we met, I found him rummaging through garbage near an American Fork Wal-Mart. He was looking for food, cardboard or anything else that might be useful.

“I’m trying to get a few bucks so I can get a hotel”, Curtis said as he crouched down on the grass below a stop sign. He spends his entire day outside, singing to pass time, walking to get anywhere and standing at a street corner.

Curtis has been homeless, jobless and struggling to get by for the past two weeks. “An apple…Some water” is all he’s eaten since yesterday. “Every once and a while someone will drop by a sandwich or something, which is always good,” Curtis said.

For Curtis, a piece of cardboard is his way of living, but American Fork doesn’t support it. A city ordinance bans panhandling, which makes it illegal for Curtis to hold up his cardboard plea.

“[The ordinance] allows complete discretion on the part of police officers to target people whose speech they don’t like”, said Stewart Gollan, the attorney representing homeless man Steve Evans who is suing the city.

Gollan said, “The hope is he can go back to doing what he does to survive.” The case is still in its beginnings, so the city still has a couple of week to respond to the complaint filed by Evans.

American fork’s city attorney Kasey Wright is still reviewing the case and had no comment.  However, in a similar case with Salt Lake City, the city argued the ordinance was for safety purposes. Fortunately for Evans and Curtis, a federal judged named the similar ordinance unconstitutional in March.

Gollan said he has spoken with Wright and they agreed to place a temporary restraining order on the city’s ordinance, which means it won’t be enforced while the case is pending. So for now, people like Curtis and Evans can continue their way of living.

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