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Panhandling becoming an epidemic in Tampa | News

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Panhandling becoming an epidemic in Tampa
News, Transportation
Panhandling becoming an epidemic in Tampa

Tampa,  Florida --  Most of us see them every day on our street corners. This week, Tampa's city council refused to take action to deal with the panhandling issue. It is a growing concern for both city and county officials.

"Every one of us could face what they face and I think all of us have a responsibility to make things better, to make life better for people who are in need," Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said.

Panhandlers can be found on just about every major intersection in Tampa. John Paul, 63, has been out of work for over six months and says he's just trying to get by the best way he can.

"I don't really want to do this. I'm doing it now because work is hard to find and sometimes you need just a little boost," Paul said.

Panhandling has caught the attention of local law enforcement concerned about public safety.

"The City of Tampa has some of the most dangerous streets in the nation -- the number of pedestrian families, the number of bicycle fatalities -- and it's only getting worse, so law enforcement has asked that we take some steps to make our streets safer," Sharpe said.

Both city and county officials here in Hillsborough County say that panhandling has become an epidemic, one that poses safety risks to both motorist and panhandlers.

"With all the congestion and all the problems we have with traffic, to have people in the intersections trying to exchange money, it slows down the flow of traffic. Even if there's not an accident, it's slowing the flow of traffic, which is only going to get worse and then there's always the potential for a major accident," Sharpe said.

Hillsborough County is looking at one proposal that would offer jobs to panhandlers to help get them away from busy intersections.

"The potential of day jobs where people could work for just one day, if that's all the time or ability they have to do, they could receive cash assistance for that one day's worth of work. They'll get the cash and the county gets a service," Sharpe said.

The Tampa City Council is looking at some other ways to deal with the panhandling issue.

Tampa City Council decided not to schedule a referendum on panhandling after hearing from an organizer of a petition drive who's trying to get 18,000 signatures in less than two weeks to get a ban on panhandling put on the ballot.

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