Raleigh, N.C. — Starting next month, panhandlers in Wake County will need a permit to operate in the county.
County commissioners passed an ordinance on Monday requiring panhandlers to get the free permits at county offices, starting Dec. 1, after presenting a photo ID. The permits are good for one year.
Commissioner Paul Coble presented the ordinance after hearing complaints from drivers about aggressive panhandlers going up to vehicles and arguing with drivers.
"The permit will hopefully stop a lot of the riff-raff from coming out here, and it might not," panhandler Bobby Corcoran said on Monday.
Corcoran said he has been asking for money at the intersection of U.S. Highway 401 and Ten Ten Road since he lost his car and job last year. The former Marine said he used to be one of the only people panhandling at the intersection.
"Now, you have someone on every corner, and then you've got the people that get up in the windows of people's cars and stand there and stare at them, which is wrong to do it like that," he said. "I stand there with my sign. They pull up. I stand there, make eye contact. I wave how are you doing, and that's it. I don't ask for anything. If they put their window down and say, 'Here you go, sir.' I say, 'Thank you very much and have a blessed day.'"
Corcoran, who lives in a makeshift shack in a wooded area nearby, said it is going to be tough for him to get transportation to county offices to get a permit.
"It's going to make it a whole lot tougher," he said. "If officers pull up and ask for a permit and I don't have it, and say I just made $30 and they write me a ticket for $160, how am I going to pay that if I'm not working and I'm not out here?"
Corcoran said he would work if someone would give him a chance.
"I'm out here. I don't try to make any more than I have to. I don't make the money to go and get drunk or do drugs," he said, adding that he tries to make enough to send money to his girlfriend and get something to eat.
"There’s been some days I’ve been out here and made $10, and I’m lucky to get something to eat," he said. "I don't want to be out here. I'm always asking about work."
Driver Phillip Baker thinks the permits will be a good thing.
"They're probably making more money off panhandling than I make at my job," he said.
Raleigh and Garner have similar laws requiring permits for panhandlers, but Corcoran said many people have been going into the county to avoid having to get a permit.
In Raleigh this year, there have been 372 charges for begging without a permit, officials said.
Johnston County commissioners are also expected to discuss panhandlers at a meeting on Monday night. Officials are considering a ban on aggressive panhandling.