HENRICO, Va. (WTVR)–The Henrico Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday evening to ban panhandling – sitting or standing – on county medians, effective immediately.
A four-year-old ordinance banned solicitations while standing in the median, which led to a large number of sit-down flaggers and panhandlers.
Flaggers and civil libertarians argue they have a free speech right to solicit help on public property.
Patricia O’Bannon, a Henrico County Supervisor, told CBS 6 that the measure is about safety.
“Someone who is a panhandler or begging certainly should not put their life on the line to do this. Being in the median is not an option,” O’Bannon said.
This measure would prohibit any forms of panhandling or solicitation in street medians, including “Firefighter Fill the Boot” programs.
Henrico police chief Douglas Middleton told the board there has panhandlers in the median, some with pets and one with a child.
He said initial enforcement will begin with explaining the changes in the ordinance and warnings.
The faith community and police chaplains will be assisting in helping those panhandlers needing help and willing to have it.
Middleton emphasized it would be compassionate enforcement.
Board member Tyrone Nelson said it’s important to focus on helping, not “erasing the face of poverty.”
The owner of Napoleon taxi company has agreed to help transport those in need, at no charge, to any needed resource centers.
On Tuesday panhandlers told CBS 6 they will head to the City of Richmond tomorrow if the ordinance passes, where sitting in medians is allowed.