Marion County Commissioners approved a ban on roadside panhandlers Tuesday.
The ordinance said motorists feel they are a “captive audience" trapped at stoplights in fear. Designers of the ordinance worried drivers could change lanes to avoid panhandlers and possibly cause an accident.
But Lisa Michelle Janes, who lives underneath an I-75 overpass said she isn't hurting anyone.
“They’ve got windows down and then they lock their doors. Look how little I am, like I’m going to hurt you?” Janes said.
Kathy Pack works at the Citrus Center off I-75 and says the issues caused by panhandlers keep getting worse.
“Tourists aren’t going to want to come down here because they are going to see panhandlers and that’s just going to kill the business,” Pack said.
The ordinance banning people with signs from soliciting alongside the road could affect more than just panhandlers. It also lists newspaper sales and charitable solicitation, which would seem to include things like firefighters’ annual MDA “Fill the Boot Campaign,” for example.
The ordinance points out panhandlers or anyone else are still free to solicit in areas like public parks, and wouldn’t have to pay for a license like the ordinance that was repealed five years ago after facing lawsuits.
But this ordinance still doesn’t sit well with panhandlers or even some residents.
“I’d appreciate it if Marion County would just back down a bit and take care of the people they should take care of," panhandler Nathanial Wright said.
“If they want to come up and ask for money that’s fine, that’s their right, if they don’t have a home I’ll help them out,” one motorist said.
Violating the ordinance would carry a fine of up to $500 or up to 60 days in jail.
Janes, last seen carrying a sign that read, "Need Work, Broke and Hungry" said she's not sure what she'll do now.
“This is my world, this is all I can do,” she said.