Aggressive panhandling a problem in Greensboro

GREENSBORO, N.C. — City officials say aggressive panhandling has become a problem for some drivers and business owners in Greensboro.

“There are a few out here that when they don’t get their way, they do things they shouldn’t do … like cuss people out, beat on the cars and stuff like that,” said David Gaither, while panhandling on High Point Rd.

Gaither, 58 years old, says he relies on the generosity of strangers.

“Don’t you see what it says? Homeless. I got nothing,” said Gaither. “I worked all my life. Never thought my life would come down to holding this sign. It hurts me.”

Panhandling is allowed in the city of Greensboro with a permit. However, city officials say restrictions against aggressive begging aren’t working.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan says the city needs to take a two-pronged approach to addressing the problem.

“I do not believe we should criminalize panhandling. But I do think we should have the ability to move people along to get them to the right spot, where people are less threatened,” said Vaughan.

Vaughan says another element could be partnering with Guilford County to increase budgets for programs that keep people off the streets in the first place.

As of Thursday, Greensboro police say 156 people have permits to panhandle in the city. However, Gaither isn’t one of them.

“I got 15 charges right now from holding this sign. Lock me up, beat me, I don’t care. I got to live,” said Gaither.

The current city ordinance prohibits panhandlers from begging on medians, curbs, cross-walks and in the roadways. Panhandlers must also stay 1,000 feet away from any entrance or exit of a highway and 100 feet from banks or ATMs.

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