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Chapel Hill Merchants, Shoppers say Panhandlers Taking Over

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CHAPEL HILL — Franklin street is the pulse point of Chapel Hill with Tar Heel fans, students, and shoppers flocking there on a daily basis. There, they are more and more often joined by panhandlers.

Some people say they're taking over the streets. Complaining storeowners and even authorities are finding out they can't do much about it.

People have heard about panhandlers in downtown Raleigh, but the Chapel Hill complaints are just beginning to be heard. People are charging that panhandlers on Franklin Street are becoming more aggressive, but police say they can't do anything unless the panhandlers are intoxicated or if police witness harassing behavior.

While some defend panhandling as a means of survival, others say it is a nuisance for people in general, and a real problem for nearby businesses. Panhandlers Ethelene Drew and her boyfriend Lendale McColl say they are polite to people, unlike aggressive panhandlers they say give all of them a bad name.

"Sir, we don't do that," Drew told WRAL-TV5'sMark Roberts. "We were just sitting there, people were putting money in our box and we said 'thank you, have a nice day', and that's it. We aren't running down the street behind them to get money and stuff. We don't do that."

Franklin Street merchants say, aggressive or not, the panhandlers must go.McColl says he and Drew need the money to eat and buy some clothes, unlike other panhandlers who use the money to buy alcohol.

Malichai, a panhandler who claims to have practiced his trade in all 50 states, says he gets aggressive and it pays off for him.

"It's like an up and down job, you know?" said Malachai. "It's like a commission job, you know. It's like you ask and you're not expecting [expletive], but some days you can make $300. Some days you can make nothing."

Some merchants say they want the public to stop giving money to the panhandlers, so the panhandlers will go away. Business owner Michael Rose says it really hurts his business.

"It really hurts my business because people just try to sit in front of my steps, and they're not allowed in the store, they're not allowed to use the bathrooms, they have to pay money for a water cup. But it's getting ridiculous around here. The streets are nasty," said Rose.

Business owners say the money going into panhandlers' pockets is coming out of their coffers.

In Raleigh, panhandlers can apply for a permit to practice begging for money. Chapel Hill has no such permit.


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