Denver, like many cities across the country, has a panhandling ordinance that limits how a person can ask for money. Recently, these types of rules have garnered headlines because a U.S. Supreme Court decision on free speech has changed how these laws are interpreted. A federal judge struck down a panhandling ordinance in Grand Junction. Colorado Springs has amended its panhandling ordinances and dismissed hundreds of related cases. And yesterday, Denver’s City Council, in addition to approving next year’s 1.8-million dollar budget, approved notable changes in the panhandling ordinance, including loosening restrictions on when and where a person can ask for money.
Thousands of people in the Denver metro area are experiencing homelessness. Many, you likely won’t see: They are sleeping on friends’ sofas, camping under trees, or resting on cots in shelters. Some are more visible, like panhandlers who stand on corners and hold a cardboard sign. The messages on those signs are as diverse as the people who wrote them. Some ask for food. Others want work. Still more try to make you laugh. Many hope to tap into the generosity of passersby with a message. Here’s what a few of the people we ran into on a warm October afternoon chose to write. All of which makes us wonder: What would you say if you were in need?
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Paul, Auraria Parkway and Speer Boulevard: “U.F.O. crashed, need $$ for parts”
Brian, Lincoln Street and Sixth Avenue: “Will work for pay, please help today”
Chief, Lincoln and Broadway streets: “Make my day feel gooder, have a good day…live life in a good way”
—Photo taken by Jerilyn Forsythe, June 2015
Art, Blake and 16th streets: “Ex-wife had a better lawyer”
Dean, Auraria Parkway and Speer Boulevard: “Hungry & broke, God bless”
Emily, Lincoln Street and Sixth Avenue: “I am human, too”
Stevo, Arapahoe and 16th streets: “Dirty broke, travelin’ folk”
—Photography by Sarah Boyum