Manatee commissioners consider total ban on roadside donating

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Manatee County commissioners are debating an ordinance that would ban people from standing in roadway medians to ask for money or donations.

The possible ban stems, in part, from an incident in July between resident Ryan Bray and a panhandler.

Instead of offering the man money, Bray offered him work.

But Bray said the panhandler became aggressive and verbally abusive.

Now commissioners are considering a measure to disallow anyone - including charity groups - from asking for money from drivers.

"It's not about trying to put people out of business who are panhandling, who are trying to make a living. This is not what this is about. This is about the uptick that we have had with violent outbursts at people that don't just roll down their window and give money," said Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh. 


The Manatee County Sheriff's Office said people standing in medians and along busy roadways can also cause traffic problems. 

"I don't know who exactly they are and who they are collecting for but I am worried they are going to get by a car," said Commissioner Betsy Benac. 

County commissioners are also working to start a program to help the homeless get off the streets, talking to other cities and counties to see their models. 

"Not all the people that are panhandling are homeless. They drive away in cars. One thing good about our community, we are giving. That’s probably why they make some pretty good money out there. It’s our job as a sheriff’s office we have to provide safety. And it’s just not safe. It’s just not safe for the people who are driving and it’s not safe for the people that are driving. it's not safe for the people who are standing in the middle of the median. Being aggressive with drivers," said Manatee County Sheriff's Office Maj. Patrick Cassella. 

The ordinance will still need a public hearing before it can be voted on and approved.