New downtown panhandling ordinance set to go into effect Monday

New downtown panhandling ordinance set to go into effect Monday

Pensacola Police will use the 10-day grace period to educate panhandlers about the new ordinance before it goes into effect.

Monday starts the grace period. It was extended by an additional five days at Mayor Ashton Hayward's request.

The new law bans any and all soliciting for money in certain areas downtown, including charities.

The ban will be in effect for the downtown district south of Wright Street to Plaza Deluna, between Tarragona and Spring streets.

"I thought we had learned our lessons the last time we passed a series of ordinances that affected the homeless, but apparently we still have some lessons to learn as a community," said Michael Kimberl, volunteer for 'Food Not Bombs.'

Kimberl volunteered Friday for the charity that meets downtown every week to feed those who are hungry and need a meal.

The new ordinance puts the charity's work on the line.

"Us having a tip jar on the table, accepting donations for the work that we do is now also going to be prohibited. And so we're very nervous that come next Friday we will start receiving citations," Kimberl explained.

The ordinance narrowly passed at Thursday's city council meeting with a 4-3 vote.

Those against the ordinance believe it's inhumane and plays off misconceptions.

"We've all heard the story every so often, 'Oh I gave the guy $5. He went around the corner and jumped into his Mercedes.' That doesn't happen that often. Don't let the bad apple represent the community. It's not fair. We do that over and over," said Kara Woodson.

Boycotts of downtown businesses supporting the ordinance will continue and organizers are discussing what they'll do next.

Pensacola Police Chief Tommi Lyter said his department will hand out informational pamphlets on the ordinance during the grace period. They will also have information on services available to them. After the grace period officers will start enforcing it, issuing warnings before issuing any fines.

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