CLAYTON — The St. Louis County Council is considering changing an ordinance that bans vagrancy after a homeless man who was ticketed dozens of times for begging at a busy intersection filed a federal lawsuit.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy says the county's legal staff recommended that the council repeal the ordinance. The measure defines a vagrant as a person "without visible means of support" and has been in effect in unincorporated areas of the county since 1965.
A judge presiding over the federal lawsuit last fall temporarily blocked the county from enforcing the ordinance. But the council is split about how to move forward.
While Clancy proposed a bill to repeal the ordinance outright, a version by Councilman Ernie Trakas would still empower police to ticket aggressive panhandlers who would cause "a reasonable person to fear bodily harm."
The council voted 4-3 last week along party lines not to take up Trakas' bill. A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed on behalf of Robert Fernandez is set for trial in April. The suit claims the county is citing and prosecuting him to restrict his speech.