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Manatee County Commission to address panhandling issues

Manatee County

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – A Bradenton man garnered national attention after a showdown with an aggressive panhandler. Now he’s asking the county commission to step in.

Ryan Bray says he sees it every day throughout Bradenton- aggressive panhandlers approaching cars at intersections.

“We’ve had enough. We should not be held hostage while we sit at a traffic signal,” said Bray.

Last week, he offered one a job, and claims the homeless man not only refused, but kicked his tire!

So in response, Bray spent hours near him holding a sign that read- I offered him $15.00 an hour to do yardwork for me and he refused. If we as a community stop paying them, they will leave our neighborhood!

On Tuesday he brought his concerns to the Manatee county commission.

“We’re going to have to take action, whether its from this fire or somebody else, something has to be done,” said Bray.

Others echoed his feelings.

“Our growing panhandler crisis needs our attention now,” said one woman.

County officials say this isn’t so much an issue of beggars at street corners. Its more of an issue of safety.

“That aggressiveness, that attack on folks. We need to focus on that, we need to make sure they cannot do that,” said county Commissioner Betsy Benac.

“Yes they have rights to free speech, but they do not have rights to aggressively approach citizens demanding money.”

Commissioners have directed staff to research panhandling ordinances in other counties, so they can draft a new one.

Some commissioners suggested ideas like putting obstacles in small medians, ordering panhandlers to wear vests or obtain licenses.

“To protect the health safety and welfare is primarily our responsibility,” said commissioner Misty Servia.

Officials at the homeless assistance program ‘Turning Points’ support this new initiative.

“Giving spare change to people is not going to help them get the change they need to improve their life,” said Turning Points Executive Director Adell Erozer.

Commissioners will discuss the new ordinance with area city leaders at an upcoming meeting.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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