Cracking down on panhandling in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Panhandlers are on a mission. WREG talked to Antonio, who said he's been panhandling at Sycamore View and Interstate 40 for about a year, off and on. That might change if a city council proposal passes.

"They continue to put new rules and restrictions on what you can and can't do," said Antonio.

He told WREG he doesn't make enough as a landscaper to make ends meet.

"Sometimes I need just a couple of dollars to get my room paid for or whatever," he said.

Antonio stands at a busy intersection, during peak traffic hours.

"I don't see a problem at the intersection. If someone wants to give, let them give. If they don't, they don't," he said.

Now the Memphis City Council is considering restricting panhandling to certain distances from an intersection with traffic lights and construction.

Some wonder if it's just a band-aid.

"Turning panhandling into a law enforcement issue disguises the issue about why there are so many individuals in Memphis panhandling in the first place. It distracts from the need of what can be done to prevent panhandling," said Chandler Schneider, who lives in Midtown.

Thirty-seven-year-old Kenneth panhandles to survive since he said he can't work.

"I don't make very much money. I try to get enough to feed me and my wife and all that stuff. That's all I try to do," said Kenneth.

He said he lives in a tent in the woods and spends several hours a day at Kirby and 385 waiting for a handout.

"I stay 2 or 3 hours in the morning and come out 3 or 4 in the evening. That's how I do it," said Kenneth.

The City Council proposal limits hours of panhandling to between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Thomas Gates of Midtown said after hours panhandling can be a problem.

"Somebody walks up to you, and they are a stranger, that's a dangerous situation that could lead to something escalating to something it shouldn't be," said Gates.

There is plenty to think about as Council members decide how much is too much when it comes to the right to panhandle.

One thing that still has to be ironed out is how panhandling differs from school groups and organizations that solicit money at intersections.

The Memphis City Council will take up panhandling at its meeting Tuesday.