'People tend to confuse panhandlers with people who are homeless,' Councilman Scott Stiltner says.
“The elephant in the room right now is panhandling,” Mayor Don Burnette told the Port Orange City Council at its Feb. 19 meeting.
Daytona Beach passed a restrictive panhandling ordinance that went into effect earlier this month, and Burnette said Port Orange will monitor how the ordinance holds up to legal challenges. If it survives, perhaps Port Orange will look at it as a tool.
“What might be a problem with 40 panhandlers in Daytona, is four panhandlers in Port Orange," Burnette said. "We look at it much the same way. We are preserving our quality of life."
The homeless have first amendment rights, Burnette said, but "that does not stop our Police Department from proactive policing. They can go and engage those panhandlers because first amendment speech does not give them the right to put other people in danger in order to panhandle.”
Burnette appealed to the community to notify the police at 756-7400 if anyone sees illegal activity taking place within the city.
“If you see panhandling and you’re concerned, running to Facebook to report it is not something I recommend,” Burnette said.
“Panhandling is an epidemic across the state of Florida and all over the country,” Councilman Scott Stiltner said.
“People tend to confuse panhandlers with people who are homeless," he continued, "and I’m here to tell you, a panhandler is not necessarily homeless, and a homeless person is not necessarily a panhandler. There are a lot of folks out there that look like they don’t have a dime to their name. Folks are giving them money and they have pockets full of cash."
Stiltner’s recommendation is that if one wants to help the homeless, there are several organizations in Volusia County dedicated to helping those in need to whom donations can be sent.