Provo mayor John Curtis also enjoys taking candy from babies and kicking puppies in his free time!
Or at least that what some have thought of a piece of legislation that was passed last year in Provo. That’s right, the entire City Council voted unanimously to put in place an ordinance that would prohibit the transfer of money or property from the window of an unparked car to a person on the street. Good, bad, or otherwise, it’s law now, and there’s a reason behind it, but I’ll get around to that.

First of all, the mayor posted on his blog telling the people of Provo to stop handing things out of their windows in order to keep traffic moving in what is possibly the intersection with the worst left-hand turn in the entire state of Utah. People weren’t happy. Some people were sad, some were mad, and some ended up presenting their religion as the only thing that can ever be correct and that their set of beliefs is above the law because of something a religious figure said 200 years ago. Check out the comments here unless you are prone to angst-related illnesses.

One commenter specifically used the Book of Mormon, a volume of scripture unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim that the mayor was making it illegal to help the poor, and that that was a great prideful sin. “Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.”

Wait a sec’…
The new law said that it was illegal to give to the homeless? Wrong. The legislation says that it’s illegal to hand stuff out the window of an unparked car. If you want to help, nobody’s stopping you from parking your car and giving what you have. Heck, you can park the car and proceed to give them the car for all I care. The point is, you’re not allowed to hand stuff out the window of the car you are currently driving, because it messes with the flow of traffic in an already poorly designed intersection. It’s illegal to hand stuff out the window of an unparked car. It’s illegal to hand stuff out the window of an unparked car. Is it clear yet? Is your car parked? Given the current parked/unparked status of your car, are you allowed to hand things out the window?
Good? Let’s move on.

If you browse through the comments, you’ll see some people avidly defending their right to give to the homeless. (Quick assessment: Did the law make it illegal to give to the homeless? Not sure? Think that it does? Please read the above paragraph. Good? Okay.) People brought Joseph Smith into it all, because he had said that “It is better to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition.”
Hold on. Nobody disagreed with that. The law didn’t disagree with that. The law simply states that you’re not allowed to feed an impostor or an honest man from the window of your idling car in the intersection.

Some are up in arms because they claim that this isn’t actually a move to improve the traffic situation; if it were, we’d just station a cop at each intersection and pull over everyone that runs red lights and pulls u-turns from the right-hand turn lane. They say that the government is trying to schmooze us over and just punish the homeless. Under the pressure of being told that he’s a liar and that he’s trying to hurt the homeless, Mayor Curtis posted again.

He recognized that panhandling and homelessness are not one and the same. He did expose that then recent undercover investigation had “confirmed that as a general rule our panhandlers are not homeless. They often work in organized rings and typically don’t utilize available community resources that would give them food and shelter. When food was given to panhandlers it was discarded and left as trash.”
So according to the police investigation, many panhandlers are not actually homeless? They work in rings? They throw away the food I give them? Joseph Smith was right about it being better to feed impostors than turn away honest beggars, but I’m not sure there were panhandling rings back in his day. Also, There probably weren’t homeless shelters and soup kitchens and overwhelming amounts of resources at the Bishop’s Storehouse and free laundry and free dental work and free showers and…… for the homeless, like there are today.

The mayor isn’t saying we’re not allowed to give to the panhandlers. What he’s saying is: There are many people who pose as homeless and don’t use the available community resources (of which there are an abundance). There is also congestion at Center Street and University Avenue. For these reasons, to improve traffic and to discourage the non-homeless from panhandling, it is now illegal to give anything out the window of an unparked car on certain streets in Provo.

You can still help the homeless. Please do.