ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Local businesses say they’ve had enough. Saying homelessness across the city has gotten out of control that their customers are being affected by aggressive panhandlers, hurting revenue and making customers feel uneasy.
“That’s not what a restaurant is for. I think that is the most uncomfortable part. You come to a restaurant to enjoy your meal to get great service. What do you have? You don’t come to a restaurant to become the direct service provider for somebody,” said one Albuquerque restaurant employee.
Fed up with the problem, restaurants like Golden Pride on Central and 53rd street have put up signs thanking customers for their generosity but asking them not to hand out money. Businesses say the panhandlers take advantage of the opportunity and return, harassing even more customers.
In 2019 a federal court judge ruled that the city of Albuquerque’s criminal panhandling ordinance was illegal to stop people from panhandling on public streets, but that does not apply to private property. A restaurant employee along Central near UNM says there have been instances where panhandlers have tried taking food off of tables and even asked customers for money and food.
“It’s a little sketchy on this side. When you are on Central, you see a lot of homeless people. You have to watch out for yourself,” said one customer, Jaelyn Shiplet.
Both customers and restaurants alike say they hope the city can address the problem. Some say they have asked for more law enforcement to patrol and help address panhandlers. The Albuquerque Community Safety Department says people can call 311 and request ACS, which handles calls regarding people experiencing mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.