ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — The man who moved the homeless off the riverfront into taxpayer-funded apartments, then bulldozed their shacks is now turning his attention to the highway exit ramps. Director of Human Services Bill Siedhoff says panhandlers are preying on motorists at exit ramps, sometimes getting aggressive.
“I’ve heard everything from people beating on windshields, beating on windows of cars, beating on the hood,” Siedhoff said, “getting out in traffic. Certainly all those things are against the law.”
To lay down the law, Siedhoff is putting up some 25 signs warning it’s illegal to beg on exit ramps. Violators face up to a $500 fine or up to 30 days in jail.
Siedhoff believes many of the people begging are not destitute.
“Many of the people are not homeless people,” Siedhoff said, “They advertise themselves as that, when in fact, that’s not the case. The money that’s collected, for the most part, it’s going for alcohol or drug addictions.”
Siedhoff says the panhandlers are also creating a false impression of St. Louis to conventioneers and visitors.
“As you come into the city, the first thing that greets you is a person with a sign asking for money,” Siedhoff said, “I think the impression that is left is that everybody is destitute.”
In order for the new signs to work, Siedhoff says it will take the cooperation of the public, the police and the courts. He’s calling on the public to alert police when they see a violation. And Siedhoff says if the police and courts enforce the signs, the word will get out in the homeless community that the city means business.
Siedhoff is also asking the streets department to put the signs up high out of reach. A few of them have already been torn down.