St. Augustine Commissioners Looking Into Panhandling Issue

Nov 10, 2017

St. Augustine city commissioners will take up the issue of homelessness and panhandling at their meeting Monday.

The topics were added to the agenda after public comment periods during recent meetings drew residents and business owners concerned over what they say are growing numbers of homeless people and panhandlers, especially along St. George Street, according to a city release.

The St. Augustine City Manager John Regan will lead the discussion with a presentation, which is already attached to the meeting agenda.

The goal of the presentation is to identify the problem, discuss contributing factors, discuss how other cities are handling it and detail a recommended plan forward.

An increase of panhandling and homelessness is negatively affecting the residential quality of life and the economy, according to the presentation.  It also defines homelessness as someone who doesn’t have a dwelling and panhandling as “begging in the street on the sympathy of others.”

The presentation also looks into the state of St. Francis House, a nonprofit providing emergency food and shelter. It’s flooded twice and operating at a reduced capacity.

The plan forward is split into short-term and long-term steps. The presentation says ultimately the solution will need total community engagement from service providers to local residents and even the chamber of commerce.

Short-term actions involve educating visitors and residents about not giving in to panhandlers’ solicitations for money and increasing the number of beds at St. Francis House. It also calls for a comprehensive review of the homeless from the service provider perspective.

Long-term actions involve engaging with St. Johns County for grant funding aimed at housing and deeper engagement on affordable and workforce housing with the county.

Also on the agenda for Monday will be a presentation by Michael Kahn regarding panhandling and legal remedies that may be explored by the Commission. Kahn, working as special counsel for the city, wrote, defended, and ultimately prevailed in the Eleventh Circuit in 2001 to a challenge to a city ordinance regulating street performers, according to the city release.

The commission meeting starts at 5 p.m. at St. Augustine City Hall on King Street.

Photo used under Creative Commons.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride