The City of Pensacola has been grappling with the problem of what to do about panhandlers, aka beggars, in the downtown area. The County has the same issues at intersections and on/off ramps all over the place.
The “problem” is the image portrayed in a City trying to attract residents and business when beggars are sitting and laying on the sidewalk, some with dogs. Not to mention the human problem of the situation they portray themselves to be in.
You might get the impression that there is no help for them, when there is. They just don’t choose to take advantage of it. And no one is making the case that making it easier for someone to stay on the streets is not humane, like Houston Mayor Annise Parker did in 2014. The panhandlers have made begging their livelihood, their “business.”
Always tuned in to how to get into your pockets, I don’t know how this idea has escaped the politicians? Do what they are prone do, regulate. Regulate the Begging Industry right out of business. Like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama tried to do to the Coal Industry.
If begging is your business, you must have a Begging License, that’ll cost you. I don’t know, say $150 a year. And since the real estate for your business is the public sidewalk or right-of-way, you’ll have to pay rent to the city or county for that. How about $100 a week or $400 a month for “rent?”
See how getting off the street and seeking help is starting to look more attractive, not to mention financially rewarding?
But wait, there’s more. Small businesses have to pay 6% sales taxes to the State and 1.5% to Escambia County every month. This requires verifiable record keeping. Failure to pay your taxes will result in shutting down the business, and possibly jail time.
All the city has to do is to think of them as small business operators and do, for government, what comes naturally. I bet the “problem” will go away. But, that will never happen. It’s easier to give in to threats of lawsuits from the Beggar’s Lobby than to take proactive steps to help get them off the sidewalk.