Hillsborough continues talk of countywide panhandling ban
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11/10/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Don Gore, a member of the homeless community, tells a committee assembled to discuss a panhandling ordinance that the government is the real problem


photo by Kate Bradshaw, WMNF

With no relief for rampant unemployment and underemployment in the Tampa Bay area, many jobless and working poor take to curbsides and medians in the hope that enough passersby will spare a dollar or two. Many see it as a hazard, which is why Hillsborough County is considering revamping a countywide ban on the practice. Today Tampa and county officials held its second workshop to kick around possible ways of curbing the practice.

Assistant Tampa Police Chief John Bennett says a recent aggressive panhandling incident confirms his suspicion that things are coming to a head in the city.

"We had an aggressive arrest at 30th and Fowler where the panhandler started banging on the lady's window. and I tell you, you replace that scenario, everybody's threshold of danger is different. And we don't know where people will take that threshold and respond to those kinds of measures. And, of course, I think it will, unfortunately for timeline-wise, approaching the holidays and knowing that we see this influx of energy that we're afraid that something's going to pop there."

Tampa Chief of Staff Darrell Smith says the increased number of people standing on curbs, asking for money, is a public safety issue that could be remedied at the county level before it’s too late.

"Panhandlers, solicitors, operating in the medians are a distraction. And we see it more and more because they're more visible but because there are more of them out there engaging in the activity so we think that it's essential to re-evaluate the situation in the city and our intent would be to work with the county and the other municipalities in the county to develop a uniform, standardized approach."

Panhandlers are highly visible in many parts of Tampa, but they are barred from roadsides in all other parts of the county. St. Pete passed an ordinance banning all roadside vending in June, including newspaper sales and charity drives. In Tampa they can solicit on curbs and medians if they wear a bright green vest. But that city is now considering a similar ban to St. Pete’s. Tampa City Council member says it’s a matter of public safety.

"Solicitors in traffic on medians and traffic islands are ticking time bombs waiting to go off when it comes to traffic safety."

The group also looked the ways cities like Key West, Jacksonville, and Sarasota have confronted panhandling, as well as the possibility of allowing it once a week. The agenda didn’t allot any time for public comment, but Don Gore, a member of the homeless community, approaches the podium anyway.

"The only thing I wanted to say is y'all remember that the Supreme Court declared homeless people the right to associate on public property, city, county, and state property. They got that right."

Gore, is asked to sit down, and does. But when the committee’s agenda runs out early, Interim County Administrator Mike Merrill gives members of the public their say. Gore rails against a political system that has ignored the homeless.

"I'm one of the people, I'm one of the homeless. I grew up homeless and here in my old age I'm still homeless because of these politicians. You don't take care of our problems, you can't solve our problems. You can't do that because you are the problem."

Connie Farrington, Board Member and Volunteer Coordinator of I am Hope Café in Brandon, says the committee is wrong if it thinks it will solve anything by arresting panhandlers.

"The next time you see somebody out there panhandling, look over in the parking lot and see if there aren't some kids sitting in a car there. And they're waiting for dad to make a few bucks so they get to have dinner. That is exactly what we see every day. And if you really want to solve this problem then you'll come down with the little people like us and you'll find out what the real stats are. You'll find out what's really going on. You'll know exactly what we go through every single day to help these poor people."

She tells them that the real solution is transitional housing. Among those invited to participate were law enforcement officials, county attorneys, a member of the homeless coalition, and several city and county officials. Homeless advocate Mark Farrington says he’s disappointed at who hasn’t been invited to the table.

"This membership, and you're an august body, and you all have credentials and are well spoken, but nobody speaks for the homeless on this committee, nobody. Something wrong with that. I thought we learned last Tuesday (Election Day) when one group tends to speak for everybody that everybody suffers. So I would ask you to realistically look at adding to your commission. Somebody that's an advocate for the homeless because we don't have that."

While the coalition consists mostly of public officials, it is not currently charged with making any decisions. It plans on holding several more information gathering sessions in the coming months to help the county determine whether an all-out ban on panhandling is appropriate. As unemployment continues to soar, some homeless advocates wonder if local ordinances targeting the homeless are an attempt to sanitize the area ahead of major events like the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Previous WMNF coverage of homelessness

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Comments

(in)visible

Let's be honest, John and Joan Q Public don't like being reminded that there are homeless people out there so panhandling in the streets will have to go. This incident with a panhandler banging on someone's window is just an excuse to victimize a part of our society that we'd just as soon have go away. But will they? No, they'll just move back to hanging out in front of convenience stores and other private businesses where the owners will have to complain to the police to run them off on a daily basis. Most people would like the homeless to go to the available shelters, not realizing that these "non-profits" are charging $10 a night and chasing them out of the building before dawn. Most people don't realize that a lot of homeless don't have valid ID's and can't get food stamps, or that the various food banks in the area are giving away items that the homeless can't readily use, like canned goods, and have no place to store the food so they'll have something for tomorrow. We need for social services to go out on the street and find out what kind of help will be useful. Short of building transitional housing, why not supplement the non-profits the $10 a night, which is a lot cheaper than a night in jail which we don't have room to do anymore anyway. What needs to happen is for the County or Tallahassee to tax another nickel on the price of a can of beer and dedicate that fund to homeless recovery, but I doubt if these Republicans would step within a park bench distance of suggesting any kind of tax. Nor are they going to be willing to let go of any part of their six-figure incomes towards getting these guys a day old loaf of bread.

Getting a raise... party at my shack!!!

I wonder if my $70,000 raise is going to be retroactive???

Screw them!

Screw them. Those people are bums and I'm tired of seeing them at every intersection. They should get a job or take responsibility for their chosen lifestyle. And don't say there's no jobs. If there's no jobs, what's attracting the hordes of illegal aliens?

vets

Any other day of the year I'd probably let these snide, belligerent remarks slide on by, but not on Veteran's Day. The one overwhelming trait I find with conservatives is a lack of empathy, which you've both amply demonstrated. People keep talking about how there needs to be communication between the right and the left, but your absolutely cynical attitudes do nothing but feed your own condescending self righteousness. Sit in the parking lot at James Haley for half an hour and remember who paid for your freedom.

chosen lifestyle?

Wow. The ignorance is so overwhelming I don't know where to begin. You could say that a far few of homeless were put in their situation due to addiction, whether alchohol or some other form of drugs. But not the majority. So what about those people? Surely they must have chose such a paradise. Sleeping on the streets, living on one small meal a day or sometimes not eating at all. What a life they have..(excuse my sarcasm) It's people like this that makes me wish kharma existed or was more prevalent. So tomorrow you might be laid of from your job and find yourself in the same position. Oh and if you think you'll be able to find a permanent job once you lose your residence. Then good luck.

I AM a Veteran

I retired from the Air Force with 24 years active duty (304X0/Radio Relay). Before that I had 6 years inactive with the Army National Guard (13E/Artillery). Thirty years service total. These bums do not represent the military and if any of them ARE veterans, they are a disgrace to the uniform. I say again: these bums need to take responsibility for their chosen lifestyle.

veterans

I'm a veteran. I'm also a recovering alcoholic and have been sober for nearly 30 years. Most of the panhandlers I've seen are alcoholics. I've always been willing to help any alcoholic who's been able to ask for it, without asking if someone was a veteran or not. If it makes you feel better to look down your nose at people who are too proud to ask for help, then at least stop putting roadblocks in the way of people who's service didn't stop at their discharge.

Make Up Your Mind

Make up your mind. You first said it was about the veterans. Now you say it's all about the alcoholics. I'm not looking down my nose at anyone. I'm calling a spade a spade. And I will not tolerate these bums harrassing good citizens. Helping an alcoholic is like feeding a wild animal. Neither can change their nature and are dangerous. Please don't feed the bears.

Not getting a raise???

Hay… Tampa_TG… my comment was directed at you and your snide, belligerent, absolutely cynical, condescending, self righteousness comment about Republicans and their 6-figure incomes. But… I’ll tell you what I’m going to do… the next time I see a vet in the median holding a sign that says… “Laid off and homeless, but I have Healthcare”… I’ll give him whatever I have in my wallet… Semper Fi

moi?

Yeah, glenn, I know. But my reference to six figure incomes was directed at the GOP politicians and their Tea Party puppets so I figured you must have missed that. There are a lot of homeless veterans who are alcoholics, I have a lot of experience helping alcoholics, regardless of race, income, or whether or not they are veterans. Those are two separate statements so try to keep up. And really, the point here is either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

Yeah... vous... Pepe La Pew...

Au contraire mon frère… there is a fourth option that is typically used when dealing with panhandlers… we can simply go around them. Personally… I hope Hillsborough will “follow” the “lead” of Pinellas and “get them the hell out of the way”… so that we don’t have to “go around” them anymore.

cute

If you seriously can't afford a nickel a beer, please call (813) 933-9123

You buying???

Thanks for the offer... but... I'm not a quitter.

I am a Leader

"the point here is either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way". I AM leading. I'm standing up for decent people everywhere and encouraging our community to maintain standards. I vote to prevent these parasites from plaguing our roadsides and to ban them from ALL public spaces.

Clarification

I previously only mentioned being a veteran in order to qualify my opinion on the bums who harrass passersby. Unlike many people, I don't believe being a veteran entitles me to special treatment. The military took me in when I had no other options. They gave me an occupation and a livlihood and provided all the sustenance I ever expect to receive. If anything, I owe the military for the chance they gave me.

on veterans

1) It took almost 50 years for the government to acknowledge the suffering of more than 200,000 U.S. veterans exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange, which the U.S. military used for a decade to defoliate forests and destroy food sources in Vietnam. Despite higher incidences of cancer, neurological, digestive, skin, lung and heart disorders along with miscarriages and birth defects, the DoD denied any linkage of exposure and disease, and disability claims, which veterans initiated in 1977 were mostly denied. By 1993 only 400 veterans exposed to Agent Orange had been granted some compensation. Class action suits against companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical settled out of court for small amounts. After much advocacy by veterans and their supporters, the 1991 Agent Orange Act was passed, allowing the VA to declare specific conditions "presumptive" to Agent Orange. This summer the list was expanded to include B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease. Still, after five decades, compensation is small with the vast majority of awards at 20 percent or $243 montly. 2) Almost a third of the 700,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffer from a profound physiological disorder called Gulf War Illness (formerly Gulf War Syndrome). For almost 20 years, the DoD and VA insisted that psychological stress alone was the cause of the fatigue, mood disorders, cognition and memory problems, and disorders of every physical system as well as birth defects of veterans' children. To date, some 11,000 veterans have died from the illness, and most survivors continue to suffer chronic symptoms. In 2008, the Gulf War Research Advisory Committee (RAC) reported what veterans have known too well—that wartime toxins, not stress, caused profound physical illness in almost 300,000 veterans of Desert Storm.

Decrease unemployment…

Dude… you’ve confused me… again. How does allowing people… with severe mood disorders… to panhandle on street corners and in the medians… around malls… schools… and downtown… how does this help these vets??? Is it part of a new 12-step program or something??? Wouldn’t it be easier for the county to just give them handheld stop signs and make them crossing guards??? They already have the corners, vests and some training… and according to Salary.com… the going rate in this area is about $10 an hour. What am I missing here??? Oh yeah… the severe mood disorders interacting with the public.

long hot summer

Despite the fact that we've finished a long hot summer, despite the fact that there's a large influx of homeless from Pinellas, this is the first reported incident, and you're ready to punish everyone because you're inconvenienced? Neither you or your friends have offered any alternatives, just one whine after another. I've made the points I'd hopeed to make, have a nice day.

Have a Heart

We are all humans. Have a heart...Nobody should be hungry regardless of their situation and how they got there. We are people, we are all brothers and sisters. If anyone thinks they are better than anybody, they are nothing but below everybody...because the people who matter are the people who make differences in this world. This area needs more people that care and have compassion for one another, and less people that think they are above others because they are fortunate enough to have a place to sleep and food to eat. If people weren't so disgustingly greedy, than there wouldn't have to be worldwide hunger. But people want to be gluttonous and have it all for themselves. If there was more help for homeless and people in need, they wouldn't have to resort to asking people to spare their change. But let's face it, there are more heartless people nowadays than good, it seems, and it's up to you whether you'd like to be a good, decent person and help others, or if you'd like to be a self absorbed and shallow person. And if you want to continue to talk down about others less fortunate of you, then you're the real loser in this situation because you have no idea what love and life is all about.

Mighty Mighty Bravo

TG and shayshay, why do you insist on insulting those who disagree with you? As I said before, I am not looking down my nose at these people. I am taking a stand. I have nothing against lending a hand to people who are victims of circumstance: individuals or families who are newly homeless due to hurricanes or flood or factory closings. Who would not feel sorry for someone in that situation? I have been in that situation myself --made homeless during the evacuation due to the eruption of Mt Pinatubo (a volcano in the Philippines). For weeks I slept on the floors of restaurants and private homes and unoccupied buildings. I went without air conditioning and showers, food, and even water. I struggled to care for my dog when very little food and water was available. Eventually he got loose and joined a pack of newly wild dogs who roamed the streets. People and organizations came through for me (and everyone else) and I really appreciated it. And I would gladly return the favor and help anyone similarly affected. But I have zero patience for the people who have adopted a lifestyle of living off the backs of other people --that's what these bums are. When you give them money, it only emboldens them and they become more agressive. I have a feeling you guys are not very mature so I'll cut you some slack.

Just do it...

No one ever ask me for alternatives to the panhandler issue… but… if you insist. First… put those panhandlers’ who suffer from psychological disorders into institutions where they can receive the help and medication that they require (that would also include addicts). Yes… make them “wards of the state”… now… I do understand that this is a radical new form of healthcare… and would deprive them of that “free range” life style to dumpster dive for their very existence… which is apparently more important in an open society rather than actually taking care of these people… but I can live with it. Second… any of those panhandlers who are the primary breadwinners or caretakers of children… turn them over to the Dept. of Children and Families. I understand that the DCF are experts at motivating Moms and Dads to change certain lifestyles and help to overcome hardships that have a negative impact on the children. Third… arrest everyone else… with progressively longer sentences. These would be those “normal” individuals… who are not responsible for anyone else but themselves… and who can and should be able to find some sort of work… such as crossing guards. There are groups and organizations that will avail themselves to help anyone in need… including finding work… if they will just ask. Even those that are physically disabled have laws that protect them from workplace discrimination and give businesses incentives to “hire the handicapable”. And if they can’t find work… as long as they are citizens… they can receive Social Security Insurance. Any questions??? Meeting adjourned…

Good Idea

very sensible and practical suggestions.

Thank you, Johnny...

Hay… TG… I was going back through these comments and do you know what I noticed??? Neither YOU, anonymous, nor Shay Shay … had any alternative suggestions to the problem either. Just a bunch of "pillow biting" about John Q Public, kharma, the military, alcoholism, having a heart… and, oh yeah… the price of nickel beer. So… unlike you… I’ll ask the question… what would you suggest???