First Read

Backlash in Tallahassee over county's anti-panhandling signs

New blue signs ask drivers to '... not give to persons in the roadway.'

Facebook page of Commissioner Brian Welch

Leon County’s government is getting flack (and a little bit of theft) in response to its new roadside anti-panhandling signs. As part of a larger homelessness program that includes developing an ordinance meant to make solicitation in a road median illegal, county commissioners OK’d 22 signs at 11 intersections that say, “For your safety and theirs, please do not give to persons in the roadway. Contribute to solutions,” followed by a link to a local social service agency. 

County Commissioner Brian Welch championed the idea and defended it online, saying the county’s street outreach teams determined most panhandlers weren’t homeless. “Many of these individuals are suffering from substance abuse and mental illness and the funds they receive from panhandling only exacerbate these problems,” Welsh tweeted

Perhaps not surprisingly in the state’s left-leaning capital county, the response to the signs has been largely negative, at least on social media. Other local elected officials, like Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, were also critical – and one of the signs was even stolen within 24 hours of being put up, according to County Commissioner David O’Keefe.

O’Keefe added that he doesn’t think the signs will have any effect on drivers and said they do nothing to address the underlying homelessness problem: “I don't think it does anything to help anyone, and it distracts us from what we can actually do to help people experiencing homelessness,” he told City & State. 

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