Two NC cities take up issue of panhandling

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There is a growing movement to put an end to rampant and aggressive panhandling. Two North Carolina cities took up the issue this week.

The Fayetteville City Council passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to give panhandlers cash through your car window. In Greensboro, city leaders are rewriting their ordinance so it doesn’t target the homeless.

In Charlotte, the idea being pushed is to give money to groups that help the homeless rather than to panhandlers like Michael Gault who stand in the road. Gault said drivers should be allowed to give cash if they want to.

“Just let the people give what they want,” he said.

Gault has been working a corner of Wilkinson Boulevard now for about a year and says he can make $35 to $45 a day on good days.

“I don’t like doing it, but I ain’t got no other way of making income,” he said.

In Fayetteville, what Michael Gault and others like him are doing is now illegal.

The new ordinance passed by the city council bans drivers from giving money or any item to someone standing in the street or on the side of a road.

A driver would get a warning for a first offense or pay $25 dollars for a second offense and a fine of $100 for a third offense.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham, who is an advocate for the homeless in the county, said she could never support such an ordinance.

“When I see somebody who is looking for a couple of dollars, they are not harming anyone,” she said.

In Greensboro, the city council is moving to repeal the city’s panhandling ordinance because the wording unfairly targeted the homeless. The new version now regulates how panhandlers can ask for money and bars aggressive panhandling.

The head of the city’s homeless unuion complained the new version goes too far.

“It gives police a broad, sweeping tool to push the poor and homeless people out of public spaces and that’s all that panhandling laws have been about and we won’t stand for it,” said spokesperson Marcus Hyde.

The city of Charlotte has been urging people who want to give money to not give it to panhandlers but rather groups that help the homeless. Then there’s no chance that cash won’t be used for drugs or alcohol.

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