CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - People in Charlotte County say there are certain areas where they're afraid to get out of their cars. They say panhandlers beg for, sometimes even demand money, and something has to be done.
Commissioners say panhanding is legal. But when it becomes aggressive panhanding, when it scares people or affects business, it won't be allowed anymore in Charlotte County.
Commissioner Tricia Duffy knows firsthand how intimidating some panhandlers can be. "He kept banging on the window, banging on the car, I could barely get my foot on the pedal to back out," Duffy said.
She's not the only one. "They panhandle me when I go to the post office, the panhandle me when I go to Publix, Winn-Dixie," Grant Brady said.
"One time, I actually had one step in front of my bike. I bike ride a lot, and he actually straddled the wheel of my bicycle and practically demanded money," George Attard said.
It's gotten so bad, Duffy says places like ByrdBath car wash have lost half of their business. "I have no desire to let Charlotte County turn into New York City," Duffy said.
Today she and other Commissioners voted to outlaw aggressive panhandling. Commissioner Adam Cummings was the lone vote of opposition."I am concerned about a mood I am seeing in the community that seems hostile towards homeless people, and we're not supposed to legislate against people, we are supposed to legislate against activities," Cummings said.
A man who simply goes by "Wolf" and used to be homeless knows that mood all to well. He says with no jobs, panhandling is some peoples' only option. "They're trying to run them out," Wolf said."They're trying to get rid of all the homeless. But by the grace of God go I. They may be two paychecks away from being homeless."
Residents agree this is a start, but it's not the end. They hope the county will go one step further and offer more support services to the estimated 1,000+ homeless in the county.