Henrico voting to ban panhandling in street medians

Posted at 7:42 PM, Oct 23, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-23 19:51:49-04

HENRICO, Va. (WTVR)--Henrico County leaders are prepared to pass a new ordinance that would prohibit panhandling in street medians.

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.

Henrico County banned panhandling while standing in 2008 but many panhandlers continue doing it - sitting instead.

This measure would prohibit any forms of panhandling or solicitation in street medians, including “Firefighter Fill the Boot” programs.

 But panhandlers feel this measure threatens their civil liberties.

 "I could be out robbing or stealing and hurting people to get money but this way I'm just asking," Victoria Holben, a Henrico County panhandler, said.

Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, Executive Director of Virginia's ACLU, is worried that these ordinances could gradually extend to sidewalks and other public places.

"I would not enact an ordinance like this that has the potential to be an area of deep public concern if not applied fairly," Gastanaga said. 

Many panhandlers told CBS 6 they will head to the City of Richmond tomorrow if the ordinance passes where sitting in medians is allowed.