Houston Protects Cafes From Beggars

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HOUSTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) — The Houston City Council has approved an ordinance that requires panhandlers to stay at least 8 feet away from sidewalk cafes.

The city already has similar buffer zones for gas pumps, bus shelters, ATM machines and parking meters. The council added outdoor eateries to the list Wednesday, The Houston Chronicle reported.

Owners of restaurants with cafes said their patrons have been complaining of being harassed by beggars. Downtown Houston has become a fashionable area to live and socialize, creating tension with street people.

“You’re sitting at an outdoor table at a restaurant. Someone comes and looms over you and starts asking for money. That’s an intimidating situation, and you don’t have really an opportunity to escape,” Mayor Annise Parker said.

The council postponed action on another measure that would have expanded the downtown area where sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk is banned.

Parker said she recognizes these ordinances are not a solution. Asked if the city is treating symptoms and not the underlying problems that create homelessness, she responded “Yes.”

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