Seminole County Residents: "Make Panhandlers Buy Permits"
Their signs read, "Homeless and Hungry" and "Please, spare change." The men and women say holding up the signs at Seminole County's busy intersections is a way for them to put food in their stomachs. But some Seminole County residents say it’s to put money in their bank accounts. A group called Taking Seminole County Back is proposing that the county require panhandlers to buy permits to beg for cash. They could cost $25 per weekend.
While panhandling is legal, Annette Sims, co-founder of Taking Back Seminole County, says panhandlers violate traffic and safety rules, as well as people’s trust. She's spoken with nearly twenty of the area's frequent panhandlers.
“These people that are here. They’re not homeless. And they’re not even needy. They’ve just chosen this life because it’s profitable," she said in a phone interview.
County chair John Horan says the board will consider the idea at its meeting next week. But the real difficulty is quote in the supply—not in the demand.
“Frankly, if people wouldn’t randomly give money to people on the street and would dedicate those particularly funds to the programs that we have to help people that are in need, than that would go a large way to solving the problem.”
Horan is asking residents to give their money to charitable and state organizations geared toward people in need. Not panhandlers.
Meanwhile, former board chair Brenda Carey, who was instrumental in the passing of a 2015 ordinance limiting panhandling in certain locations, is slow to speak about whether or not panhandlers pose a serious safety concern to residents. She says ultimately, the county's sheriff department, is aware of the risk panhandlers have posed in the past.
WMFE contacted the sheriff's department for comment and is awaiting response.