St. Augustine officials want residents' input to solve panhandling issue

Officials say panhandler population on rise in past year


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some people say the panhandling issue in historic St. Augustine is taking a turn in the right direction.

City officials said the panhandler population in the downtown area has gone up over the past year and they are working to lower it.

They’re asking for public input as they gather information and arrive at effective new ways for the city to lower the number of panhandlers.

Panhandling is an issue St. Augustine residents say has left them weary. 

“It’s beyond frustrating,” St. Augustine resident Richard Baker said.

Charles Pappas said it’s something that’s negatively affected his daily exercise routine.

“I jog every morning. I stopped for six months jogging through downtown because I just couldn’t even go through Gibbs Park,” Pappas said. “It was just littered with trash.”

Since early November, the St. Augustine Vagrant Watch Group gained more than 900 members. Pappas, a member of the group, said social media has had a huge impact in moving the issue forward and getting attention from city leaders.

“They’ve actually been collecting that data through the Facebook page,” Pappas said. “The city is gathering photos, personal encounters and incident reports to build what’s called a ‘public record of fact,’ which will help demonstrate why new ordinances are needed.”

Residents and business owners said they are happy to see the city making moves.

“It’s starting to look a little bit better around here,” Baker said. 

“I’m pleased with the progress,” Pappas said.

Members of the Facebook group said they plan to continue posting encounters and spreading the word until the issue is resolved.  

City officials said they want to hear input from residents. Anyone who wants to submit pictures or other information can do so by clicking here

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