Concerned citizens, Harris County lawmakers seek limits for panhandlers

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by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 2 at 6:40 PM

HOUSTON --  A group of concerned citizens and Harris County lawmakers are talking about ways to limit panhandlers and others asking for money on the streets.

The current talk is about the possibility of establishing a permit system to allow folks to solicit from a sidewalk or median.

The panhandlers are hard to miss.

“My sign says just hungry,” said one man who was working the corner of FM 1960 and Veteran’s Memorial in North Harris County.

This stretch has many panhandlers that are all asking for help and looking for cash.  You’ve heard the story: ”I don’t plan on doing this. I’m just doing it right now because it is what I have to do.”

Charles Fox said he has been homeless for more than 8 years and has a roof over his head only thanks to kind strangers.

”I keep my girlfriend and I at the Motel Lodge. I stay right here at the Motel Lodge. It keeps her and I inside and it also keeps me fed,” he said.

Some people see them as harmless.

”Sometimes if you’ve got a little something you’ll help them and some times you don’t,” said one area driver.

Others see them as a neighborhood eyesore at best, and as a danger to the community at worst.

“Many of them are criminals,” said Larry Lipton.

Lipton is chair of the public safety committee of the Northwest Houston Chamber of Commerce and a leader of the group talking about the permitting idea.

Panhandlers can be intimidating, some people said.

”Sometimes I roll up my window and lock the door. You never know,” said one female driver.

That is exactly why some community leaders are looking for ways to limit solicitation on the roadways with a permit system. Likely it would require a fee and some form of safety training to legally solicit funds near a roadway.

“You will first limit the number of people that will even do it. That will even go through it, ” he said.

The problem is if you ban the practice completely then legitimate charities, like firefighters and their Fill The Boot campaign are also shut out.

But oermitting would potentially solve the biggest problem.

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