Downers Grove Sued Over Panhandling Ordinance

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By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Advocates for the homeless and free speech are suing the Village of Downers Grove and say the local government is unconstitutionally restricting homeless people from asking for help at intersections. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the American Civil Liberties Union are representing two men whom they say have been ticketed and prosecuted for asking for money at Butterfield and Finley Roads.

State law prohibits most people from soliciting money at traffic intersections. A similar ordinance in Downers Grove makes exceptions for charities, religious organizations and political groups. Attorney Diane O’Connell with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said that’s unconstitutional.O’Connell said in recent years more than two dozen similar laws have been struck down.

Village officials appeared blindsided by the lawsuit, saying Downer Grove stopped enforcing the ordinance after hearing from the ACLU in March. Pending charges were dismissed at that time, a spokesperson said.

"The lawsuit came as a surprise given the Village’s cooperative response to the ACLU’s letter," a spokesperson told WBBM Newsradio.