Aggressive Panhandlers Cause Trouble, City Hoping To help The homeless

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nashville's homeless said they've been negatively impacted by aggressive panhandlers.

It's an actual charge, Aggressive Panhandling. The last time the charge made the news was in June of 2017, when an intoxicated man was charged with the misdemeanor for attacking people while simultaneously asking them for money.

"Most of them are drunk, severely intoxicated and they get out here and they walk with the public and they're wild," said Cynthia Pritchard, who sells newspapers downtown. "They'll argue with them. If you don't give them something, they'll cuss you out for not giving it to them."

Pritchard is homeless and is trying to get back on her feet. She sells The Contributor, a street newspaper created by a Non-profit group for the people who are down on their luck.

She says panhandlers who are overly aggressive have a negative impact on her clients.

"They'll avoid me. If there's a panhandler standing there, they'll walk by and around because they just don't want to be involved," Pritchard said.

According to her, it's happening more. Tom Turner, with Nashville's Downtown Partnership said it's likely due to population growth.

"I think the growth is in the city overall," Turner said. "So, if we're growing in residents, then we're growing visitors, and employees and other things grow with it. So, traffic grows, panhandling grows."

The city has had a recent push to help people who are homeless. The Downtown Partnership has two outreach workers who deal with the chronically homeless, trying to get them jobs and back towards stability.

"So, the people that are being assisted with housing first are folks that are often times have mental health conditions, addiction, other physical health conditions that keep them from being housed," said Turner.

In a recent meeting with downtown business leaders, Mayor Megan Barry said they were aware of aggressive panhandling and violence downtown. However, Turner said there's a difference between the people who are homeless and the people who are aggressive. Something Pritchard agrees with.

"It really hurts, because you're sitting here trying to make an honest living," said Pritchard.

She's exactly the kind of person the Downtown Partnership and Metro Homelessness Commission hope to help.

The commission has also recently hired three workers with the same goals as Downtown Partnership.

State law cites aggressive panhandling as someone who solicits a donation of goods or money in the following Manner:

  • By intentionally touching someone without their consent.
  • By obstructing the path of a person or vehicle.
  • By following a person who they are begging.
  • Or by threatening a person with violence or intimidation.

The charge is a Class C misdemeanor.

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