Surge in issue sparks complaints to police

Surge in issue sparks complaints to police


ROCKFORD — On a sunny Saturday morning, Kelsey Rogers holds a cardboard sign as he stands on a sidewalk near the intersection of East State Street and Alpine Road.

The handwritten sign states Rogers is homeless due to bereavement, identity theft and other hardship. Any donation will help.

“I’ll work on cars or clean people’s houses, whatever I can do,” he said. “But, when I don’t have a job for that day, I come out here.”

The sight of people asking for money at busy intersections has become more commonplace in Rockford and in other cities in Illinois since January when a federal judge struck down the state’s panhandling prohibition from being enforced on the basis the statute violates the First Amendment.

The increase in the number of people soliciting donations at busy intersections has generated complaint calls to police and prompted the Rockford Rescue Mission to offer advice on how residents should respond.

For Rogers, working the busy Rockford intersection can help him scrape up enough cash to get a place to stay for the night, he says.

Kelsey Rogers receives money from a motorist at the corner of East State Street and Alpine Road Saturday, May 29, 2021, in Rockford. Rogers says he is looking for employment but is struggling to obtain a state-issued identification card and his birth certificate from another state.

The 40-year-old is originally from Tupelo, Mississippi, but has lived in Rockford for about 30 years. Sometimes he stays with friends or, if he has the money, he rents a motel room.

Dressed in a high visibility green sweatshirt and tan pants, Rogers keeps his belongings tucked in a bright red backpack while he scans the intersection for donors. 

A woman in the front passenger seat of a westbound sedan rolls down her window and hands Rogers a five dollar bill.

Moments later, a man in another car gives him a dollar.

More:Rockford Rescue Mission ranks among most trustworthy charities

The morning is off to a promising start.

“There’s some generous people here,” Rogers said. “It varies. I’m not out here all day. I get what I need and then I go on about my business.”



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