Haines City may restrict panhandling

Posted at 4:52 PM, Mar 03, 2016

Begging for money in one Polk County community may get a little tougher.

Haines City officials will vote Thursday night on a stricter ordinance regarding panhandling on public property.

The proposed change comes after city hall become inundated with complaints about panhandlers harassing them for money as they walked out of the library.

"They're standing out there, people are trying to go in there with their kids. It's just not fair to the public," said Chief Rick Sloan with the Haines City Police Department.

The city's new proposed plans would require panhandlers to stay at least 20 feet away from public buildings, like the library, but they are still allowed to ask for and collect as much money as they please.

"I don't particularly ask people for money," said Daniel Lutz, one of the panhandlers who prefers sitting on the steps right outside the library.

Under the new ordinance, that would not be allowed.

"Then I wouldn't be at this spot," he said.

Lutz is among the dozens in the "Homeless Voice" program who stay at a local so-called homeless motel and use their earnings to pay a minimal rent.

The city commission will discuss the proposed change at a meeting Thursday night at 7 p.m. at city hall.