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City Council votes to change panhandling ordinance

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis City Council has voted to pass a controversial ordinance placing restrictions on panhandling.

Tuesday night, the council made it illegal to panhandle in city limits depending on where you are and when you do it.

It extends the city's ban from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. and keeps panhandlers at least 25 feet from intersections and other high-traffic areas.

"People panhandling are homeless, are hard up and that's simply not gonna stop them," said one opponent of the measure.

Critics said the ban, which fines violators $50, will do little to keep people from panhandling.

"If you can`t pay for shelter, you can`t pay the fine. Think about it. So why would you criminalize someone that can`t pay the fine?"

But Council member Philip Spinosa, who introduced the ordinance early last month, defended the changes.

"This ordinance is 100 percent, absolutely, positively, about public safety."

Critics called on the city to put more emphasis on getting people off the streets. They said the city needs to create a free homeless shelter and they're convinced the city has enough money to do it.