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Donovan Says Panhandling in Milwaukee is Out of Control

LaToya Dennis
Ald. Bob Donovan says panhandling in Milwaukee is spiraling out of control.

Milwaukee alderman would not ban panhandlers outright but would prohibit them from standing in medians, asking for money.

Thirty Fifth and National is a pretty busy intersection. Besides the large amounts of traffic that roll through, there are a couple restaurants, a corner store and a business that buys gold. It’s the spot Ald. Bob Donovan picked to talk about what he believes is a growing number of panhandlers in Milwaukee.

“This is undoubtedly a symptom of a larger problem of disorder that we’re seeing in an increasing number of neighborhoods in Milwaukee,” Donovan says.

Credit LaToya Dennis
A cart locked to a pole at the 35th and National. The city was called to remove the belongings.

A few business owners and residents joined Donovan, as he announce plans to nip the problem. He says the legislation he’ll introduce would make it illegal, to stand in a median to collect money. Anyone who does, could be ticketed. Yet Donovan says it’s going to take more than a new law to fix the problem. He’s asking residents to stop giving panhandlers money.

“These individuals are taking the money that they receive by good well intentioned citizens, I have no doubt, well intentioned citizens. They are using that money to fuel their drug habits, or perhaps their alcohol abuse,” Donovan says.

Kevin Sas-Perez takes issue with the way Donovan characterizes many panhandlers, as addicted to drugs or alcohol. Sas-Perez lives on the other side of town, but stopped by to hear what the alderman had to say.

“There’s a lot of people who, they’re just in a tough situation and they have nowhere to go, nothing to do, no way to provide for them and their family,” Sas-Perez says.

Sas-Perez says he’s always willing to do what he can to help people.

“When I give to a panhandler I try to talk to them, and get to know a little bit about them. They are people too. It’s a person, not just something we give money to to feel good about ourselves,” Sas-Perez says.

Ald. Bob Donovan says he’s gone so far as to offer panhandlers a job.

“The problem is a lot of times when I have offered individuals jobs they said some profanity towards me and walked away,” Donovan says.

Donovan says the goal of his plan is not to kick people while they’re down, but to serve his constituents and their quality of life.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.