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Pensacola leaders look at ordinances to target panhandling

PENSACOLA   --  Pensacola leaders are looking into several ordinances that target panhandling, camping and sanitary issues in the city.

They're making city laws tougher in order to do that.

The city is considering a ban on: Tents and camps in city parks and lawns, washing clothes, shaving and bathing in city restrooms and a ban on what's called "Aggressive Panhandling."

They also want to crack down on people urinating and defecating on public grounds.
   
A copy of a letter the city administrator wrote to the city council says there's been a spike of aggressive panhandling, especially in downtown Pensacola.

He's also gotten several complaints about public defecation, so now he says it's now to time to look at making changes.

Bonnie Robertson wants her guests to have the perfect experience while staying at her Bed and Breakfast. She'll laying out the good table cloth and fine china for them, but once her guests go out in town she knows its out of her control.

Some have come back with not so flattering stories.

"I had someone who was here for their daughters wedding and had gone downtown,  was accosted by a homeless person who followed them for two blocks until they ducked off  into a place to cut off the confrontation."

Some city leaders say they've heard similar stories, so they want to crack down on "aggressive panhandling."

That means limiting panhandling to daytime hours and banning it from sidewalk cafes, near banks and ATMs, or while standing in line for an event. Panhandlers also can't follow, touch or use profanity.

The Waterfront Rescue Mission says they understand both sides of the issue. They know people in the streets need help.

"There's no question it would hinder them.  Unfortunately so many of them are looking for money for purposes for alcohol and that kind of them. But others are sincerely out of work and need a hand up."

That's why their position has always been to get them the right type of help by bringing them to organizations and shelters.

Bonnie Peterson is speaking for some of her guests and when she says the status-quo isn't working.

"I was told by the police that the guests should've called the police department, and I said, "Really visitors should have to give them  the key and say, okay have a good time downtown but here's the police number if you get accosted, I wouldn't be the business."

People who break the proposed rules can face 60 days in jail or up to $500 in fines.

City council discussed the ordinance today, but it still has a ways to go before becoming law.