Aggressive Panhandling Now Illegal In Nashville - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Aggressive Panhandling Now Illegal In Nashville

Walter Hunt Walter Hunt
Matt Leber Matt Leber

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It just got a lot harder for folks to make a quick buck on the streets of Nashville.

People who panhandle have some new rules to follow.

Metro City Council passed a new law banning aggressive panhandling after 6 p.m.  There were no objections when the council voted the bill into law Tuesday night.

Before 6 p.m., people cannot panhandle within 25 feet of an automatic teller machine or within 25 feet of a bus stop.  They also cannot ask for money within 10 feet of a doorway.

After 6 p.m., aggressive panhandling of any kind is off limits.

The law does exclude musicians and other forms of non-aggressive panhandling. 

Many see this as a first step in solving the homeless problem.

"When we look at the growth of the problem over the last four years, if we don't do something about it now, then five, 10 years from now, it will be a lot worse," said Metro Councilman Walter Hunt.

Council will also start a homeless committee that will come up with more substantial solutions by this June. 

Homeless advocates feel a shortage of shelters is the biggest problem.

Long nights on Nashville streets can be cold and dangerous. Tara Cole died after two men pushed her into the river as she slept.

"She is a woman who was homeless. If she had a place to live, she might be alive right now," said Matt Leber, spokesman for Nashville Homeless Power Project.

But in Nashville, advocates said people don't have many options other than the Nashville Rescue Mission, and the mission isn't for everyone.

"If you don't want to go to church every night, or that isn't your specific religion, then you basically have to choose the streets," Leber said.

No one argues that the rescue mission plays a crucial role in the city. For example it sends of a cold patrol, a group of volunteers who help the homeless on very cold days and nights.

But many people feel Metro dollars need to back a non-faith based shelter in Nashville.

Leber said there are models in Chattanooga and Memphis.

"There's been support from the city to help make sure there is an emergency shelter where people can go to," he said.

Until that happens in Nashville, advocates said, the homeless will spend many more cold nights on the streets.

In addition to more shelter, organizers at the Nashville Homeless Power Project want to see more low-income housing in Nashville.

During last year's campaign, Mayor Karl Dean pledged to build 200 low-income units a year. 

Advocates feel that will go a long way in fixing the homeless problem in the city.

Metro Council hopes to have results from that community roundtable on homeless issues by June.

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