Local News

Fayetteville Seeks Better Handle on Panhandlers

Posted December 27, 2007 6:31 p.m. EST
Updated December 27, 2007 6:53 p.m. EST

— In an effort to spruce up the image of downtown Fayetteville, the City Council plans to consider cracking down on panhandling.

City officials said street beggars discourage people from going downtown, and some said too many beggars throughout the city intimidate people.

The current ordinance has two key rules for panhandlers: Don't step into roadways and impede traffic, and don't intimidate or threaten other people.

New Councilman Bobby Hurst said he doesn't think Fayetteville's panhandling problem is worse than other cities of similar size, but he said he would like to see more teeth in the panhandling ordinance.

"We might as well go ahead and nip it now than let it become a greater problem later on," Hurst said.

Council members are expected to consider additional provisions at their Jan. 7 meeting that would ban panhandling at night and keep beggars away from highway medians and ATMs. Another consideration is to ban them outright from downtown, an area striving to be hip and family friendly.

Fayetteville police would have to enforce any new regulations. It's not clear yet what penalties might be imposed for violations.

Raleigh already prohibits panhandlers from going on medians and the sides of roads, as well as banning them from asking for money at night and near ATMs. The city also requires panhandlers to obtain a free permit from the Raleigh Police Department.

In Durham, no panhandling is allowed at night.

Homeless advocates said the solution to panhandling in Fayetteville doesn't lie in tougher rules.

"I don't feel the city is doing enough to help those folks," said Tom Lambeth, manager of the City Rescue Mission, which sheltered 16 men before it burned in September.

Lambeth said he believes panhandling has increased since the fire. If Fayetteville provided more services for the homeless, he said, panhandling wouldn't be an issue.

"Now that we don't have a facility for them to sort of just hang around in and to eat all day, they're out on the street panhandling," he said.

James Gilchrist, a homeless, disabled man who recently came to Fayetteville and is staying at the Salvation Army, agreed that the city needs to provide more support for the homeless.

“There aren’t enough agencies here to help me out,” Gilchrist said. “I don’t have family or anyone here."

"If I could work, I would. I would prefer to work because it's degrading to have to resort to something like (begging)."