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How Serious is Midtown's Panhandling Problem?

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond recently proposed an ordinance to better deal with aggressive panhandlers, including a mandatory six-month jail sentence following a third conviction.

Last week, Fulton County jurors returned a guilty verdict against a panhandler who four years ago shot and killed a Midtown visitor in a gas station parking lot located near Spring and 14th streets.

Such a conviction would appear to not have made much of an impression on Anita Beaty, executive director of the Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, who thinks the city of Atlanta’s most recent attempt to address aggressive panhandling is turning those less fortunate and who need assistance into criminals.

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond, chair of the public safety-legal administration committee, recently proposed an ordinance to better deal with aggressive panhandlers, including a mandatory six-month jail sentence following a third conviction.

The current law calls for a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment following a third conviction. The new legislation is intended to assist Atlanta’s tourism, especially in the downtown area.

But as last week’s murder conviction shows, Midtown has its share of aggressive panhandlers, too. At a Thursday public safety committee work session to discuss Bond’s ordinance, Beaty continued her stance that the law is not needed and discriminatory.

“We cannot deal with poverty, mental illness and addiction with criminalizing ordinances,” Beaty said as reported today by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

As many Midtown residents and workers know, Beaty’s Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless operates the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter located across the street from . Last fall, the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance wrote on its website, "From the very start Peachtree-Pine has generated tremendous problems for the surrounding community.”

Over the years, surrounding businesses have reported that staff and patrons have been accosted by men lingering around the shelter.

The shelter has struggled for years to stay open, in part because it doesn't raise enough money to cover the cost of operations. The shelter owes the city of Atlanta several hundred thousands of dollars for water and sewer service. Continued efforts to remove the Task Force, and relocate the men, remains tied up in courts. A Task Force board member told Patch last week that the next court date is in October.

With regards to the proposed new panhandling ordinance, earlier this month Beaty told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"A mandatory sentence of six months for poorly defined behavior in a city that refuses to address or even acknowledge its housing and social service needs, where housing is destroyed, public transportation systematically removed from “poor” neighborhoods and developers reign is deeply destructive."

According to Bond, since council members didn’t receive the ordinance until Thursday, another committee meeting will need to be conducted before a decision can be made as to whether to send it to the full council.

Do you think Midtown has a panhandling problem and if so, is tougher legislation needed for this portion of the city?

Marc Acampora August 23, 2012 at 10:48 PM
A $1,000 fine to a homeless man? Why not make it $100,000 and really raise some money for the city?
A Midtown Res August 24, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Any update on shutting down the flop house on Peachtree-Pine?
Filtered78 August 24, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Everyone knows that Atlanta (specifically downtown and midtown) has a serious problem with homelessness and panhandlers. That's not the question that should be asked. The question is how to solve it effectively. I think the law will work well in putting away and deterring aggressive panhandlers, but does anyone honestly think there is a law that exists that will do away with the city's homelessness problem? The only way to solve that is through job creation, programs/charity that help integrate those that are able to go back into society and some kind of social system that takes care of the mentally ill who will never be able to function properly in society.
Midtowner August 24, 2012 at 11:10 AM
I walk to work everyday and pass by the same homeless people b/w 10th & 16... None of them have ever bothered me. I would think that "aggressive behaviour" would be covered by other existing laws. This ordinance is pointless and ridiculous.
Jeff K August 24, 2012 at 12:20 PM
I hate to say it but I agree with Ms Beaty's comments on this. The city needs to address this through social programs AS WELL AS through criminal penalties. Being new to Atl (2010) I have always said though tht we have the nicest homeless people I've ever encountered. You wanna see aggressive panhandling? Visit DC, San Francisco or New York. They make our homeless look like fresh puppies. That said, there are always exceptions that need to be dealt with and I've encountered a couple which I reported to midtown blue who promptly responded.
Drewboo August 24, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I judge a society based on how they treat the "least of these".
Charles Boehmig August 24, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I AM LAST HOMELESS I SAW THIS BIRD. SWEET LITTLE BIRD. HELD IT IN MY HAND CALLED MY NEW BIRD FRIEND. NOW HOMELESS TOO HE HAS NO NEST SAD LITTLE BIRD. I WANT FLY AWAY. MY LITTLE BIRD SING SO SWEETLY. CHANGE? YA GOT CHANGE?
Rick D. Day August 29, 2012 at 03:44 AM
This is a major issue for night business in Midtown. Due to the popularity of our venue, hundreds of people line the sidewalks, and the 'regulars' come out to shuffle the line. Let me tell you bleeding hearts something: this isn't about denying feeding a homeless family. I have NEVER in 8 years of living in Downtown/Midtown that a 'true homeless' person ask me for anything. I have had screaming matches with some of the ones who just simply refuse to move on, and get aggressive (until security shows up). They feel entitled. Wonder where they got that idea? Oh right, Pine Street. In regards to Ms. Beaty's "concerns" let me clarify as a person who has put up with your tenants shit (literally! you should see my damn back alley) for 8 years: you are NOT helping them either. Actually, you are enabling them. So when I have to run off a bum, I think about your 'creme bowl' that you sit out for all the stray's to come and hang out on your porch. When the creme runs out, they start moving through OUR, I repeat, ma'am, OUR neighborhoods, steal the copper from our HVAC, dig through our trash dumpster leaving a mess and breaking into our buildings. And I think of you, not them. They can't help it. It is people like you I blame.

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