Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Tonight we went into Carrollwood and got off at the Fletcher exit of the Interstate. At the corner was a couple panhandling. She was in a wheelchair and he was standing behind her. There was a crutch leaning on the wheelchair. She had a sign that said "disabled, need help." I was not sure if both were disabled or just her. He was able to walk over to get some change from someone.

I thought back to how at the MLK northbound exit there used to be people in a wheelchair with signs asking for help. Later I and others in the neighborhood learned that the wheelchair was a prop used by residents from a nearby boarding house (Northbay and Nebraska). One person would panhandle for a while and when his shift was over, he would go back to the boarding house and someone else would use the wheelchair.

I thought, what if a social services agency had a mobile van, (sort of like the I-275 Road Rangers) that would hit these intersections. Talk to the people at the corners and assess their needs. Provide them referrals, vouchers, or transportation to housing or etc. That way the homeless in need of services could get them. (Assuming there is funding). A database could be created, the scammers could get weeded out. Maybe the scammers could get reported to the police.

How do you separate the scammers from the needy? My neighbors took in this couple who were homeless. They lived in their garage for a while and helped them get moved into a place of their own and helped them get furniture. Months and months later I read about them in the Tribune. They were homeless again. Were they scamming or simply unable to keep it together due to drugs, alcohol, mental health, trapped in circumstances, or simply never taught the skills to keep it together. Often times at gas stations and McDonald's people come up to me asking for money, giving me some story of need. I need gas money to get to ......, my car broke down and I need taxi fare......, I need some money for food to eat and etc. Some people look down on their luck, others don't. Are they scamming or are they just in a momentary bad situation.

Once when I was a teenager (18?) I was at a church conference in downtown Birmingham. I rode up my my pastor and his wife but was taking the bus back. I get to the bus station and buy my ticket. I stuck it in my back pocket. At some point I discovered my ticket missing. I either dropped it or it was stolen from me. I knew no one in Birmingham. I did not have the extra cash for a new ticket. I had just enough for a meal. What do I do? I called some friends back at home and they arranged to wire me some cash. The problem was the Western Union was located in some hotel some place else. I can't remember how many blocks away it was. I walked over there and they did not have it. I walk around and come back. Still nothing. Again I walk around in this strange city and go back. At some point hours later I realize they money was wired to me as Scott and I was telling them I was David. The money had arrive hours earlier. However, the Western Union did not have the cash on hand. The Bus station would not cash a two party money order. Nor would the A and P. Finally the Western Union had the money and I was able to buy my ticket and go home. What if things had not worked out?Would I have had to panhandle and rely on the kindness of strangers to get home?


bringiton said...

Most are scammers, I've seen them on the streets of San Francisco to the streets of London. Born in Tampa and working a low paid job in my teens, I saw first hand the scams, (mostly just lies) about needing money for a gas, etc.
If you ever get a chance to meet one asking for help, just offer to call the police (they 'protect and serve') and the cops will give them a ride, or find a service to help them. Whenever I offered to find a policeman to help, I get the "no thanks, just give me a dollar attitude."

Anonymous said...

Actually, pan handling is illegal in the city of Tampa. Maybe TPD could pick them up and drop them off at appropriate sites.

Anonymous said...

I recently cotacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office about a couple that are constantly solicating money at the corner of Waters & Dale Mabry. I got this response:

Ms. ,
I've reviewed your email concerning the roadside solicitors. This group, like many others, are working the intersections on a regular basis. However, case law and statutes of the State of Florida supercedes the County Ordinance that we once enforced. Therefore, we have no authority to remove these people from the intersection. If we are later allowed to remove them from the intersections, then we will continue our efforts in solving this problem.

MSgt. Kenneth Akins, Sr.
HCSO - District III

I'm guessing the case law and statutes are effecting TPD ability to enforce those laws as well.

Anonymous said...

Those panhandlers should be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail.

Anonymous said...

There are tons of social services in the area that address the needs of the homeless. My philosophy is to give when I feel compelled and to not feel guilty when I don't. And to never speculate on what the person is going to do with my gift.

Some people choose to be homeless, they like that care free way of life, the lack of everyday responsibility. I worked for a social service that would go out and try to help the die hard homeless that live in the woods around town and 99.9 percent of the time, they would take the hand out but never the hand up.

I used to carry around a list of county wide organizations that feed the homeless and provide services, often those who were begging declined to take it.

So I adopted my philosohpy of giving without expectation or speculation.

Anonymous said...

I did witness today a TPD officer Pull over and chase off a panhandler at Hillsborough and 275. Thank goodness they did not get the memo.

Anonymous said...

The bums and panhandlers from MLK and I-275 have been pooping behind my house! It's NASTY and I can't seem to get it to stop. I understand that they have no where else to go but come on. My backyard is not a public restroom!!
PS I thought the POO blogger would enjoy this story!

shawn-non-anonymous said...

There is a device sold in garden magazines that is essentially a motion detector attached to a sprinkler. I imagine the homeless people using your yard for a restroom would change their mind if they kept getting doused with cold water.

Anonymous said...

I thought about that one. But I was worried it would backfire and then I would be providing the neighborhood showering station (which might be better than poo!)
This was the case when I thought instead of just giving the guys that knock on my door money, I would ask them to pick up trash along the street left by all the neighborhood kids that cut through my yard. But then word got out and every bum in the neighborhood decided to throw their trash purposely in my yard and then ask me for money to pick it up. Fun game huh.
But you are absolutely right about creative solutions! I will find one that works. Maybe trip wire? Poo in the face should be small deterent. Oh but retaliation from that one might get kinda ugly....I think I will try the water first....I'll let you know how it works.