Mt. Juliet installs signs discouraging panhandling

Panhandling sign
Posted at 5:46 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 19:46:30-04

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you've driven around Mt. Juliet, you've probably seen people standing with signs asking for donations. So should you donate to the person, or to a charity that could help them?

It all depends on who you ask.

NewsChannel 5 spoke to a man, standing near a busy intersection with a sign about how his family is struggling. "I’m PTSD, I’m bipolar, I’ve got severe depression problems, I’ve got severe anxiety," said the man. He didn't give us his name.

Most would consider him a panhandler, asking for assistance from those driving by. "What’s so bad of somebody sitting on the sidewalk and sit there and needing help? (sic)" he said.

Which is why Mt. Juliet is putting up a sign of their own. It reads: SAY NO TO PANHANDLING. CONTRIBUTE TO THE SOLUTION. GIVE TO LOCAL CHARITIES.

"We’re not saying stop giving, we’re just saying give to the right places," said Justin Beasley, spokesman for the City of Mt. Juliet.

It's merely a suggestion since the city can't restrict anyone from standing on a public sidewalk or expressing their ideas - unless they cross a line. "It’s certainly protected under the First Amendment, but if they’re out in traffic or aggressively panhandling, or stopping the flow of traffic on the side, that certainly can be an issue for their safety but for the citizens as well," said Beasley.

Beasley says it's something drivers should consider, to ensure their money goes to a way that can truly help. "If you give to the Mt. Juliet Help Center, or if you give to any of the local charities, we know for sure those people specialize in being able to help people down on their luck," said Beasley.

The man we met says he and his sign aren't leaving because the one across the street sends the wrong message. "What if you need help right now? What if you have a bill that you have to pay tomorrow? What’s going to happen to that person?" he asked.

So far, Mt. Juliet has only installed one sign, but the city is planning for at least five more in locations that have the most foot and vehicle traffic.