Columbus City Council looks to address aggressive panhandling problems


Columbus City Council members held a public hearing Wednesday night to get feedback from the community on aggressive panhandling problems in the city.

Columbus police say panhandling and aggressive panhandling has increased, and the opioid crisis is a contributing factor.

"It's been hard," Analee Davidson said.

Out in the elements, Analee Davidson stands almost every day. Sometimes, she says, it's up to drivers going by her on Neil and Vine to decide if she'll eat or not.

"Some days I don't even eat. If I don't make money, I don't eat," Davidson said.

Davidson is homeless and jobless, so she panhandles two or three times a week.

"I get maybe like $20 just enough to get something to eat, enough for the bus pass," Davidson said.

Neighbors living near that corner are tired of what they see.

"I'm probably approached by panhandlers a few times a week," one neighbor said.

Enough complaints have been made to Columbus city leaders about panhandling, council members decided to listen to the issues.

"I had to knock on my front door at 4:45 in broad daylight because somebody's standing there panhandling," one business owner said.

At a public hearing, neighbors, business owners, law enforcement, and people who work with the community pointed out problems with aggressive panhandlers.

Officials with community groups say neighbors report seeing panhandlers standing at intersections, near theaters, carry-outs, ATMs, and bus stops.

"It's just not the aggressiveness, it's the trash and debris that the panhandlers are bringing to the sights that they leave," Friends of the Hilltop Operations Manager William Huffman said.

City officials say a 2015 Supreme Court ruling impacted how local codes and rules are applied in Columbus and it might be time to find a solution.

"This hearing could be a segway to changes and updating so we are compliant and reacting to what businesses and neighborhoods would like to see," Columbus City Councilman Michael Stinziano said.

While change won't happen overnight, the discussion is a start.

Davidson hopes people will consider what it's like for her, back at Neil and Vine.

"Just walk in our shoes one time. See how hard it is to be out here every single day," Davidson said.

City officials say they'll review the feedback received at Wednesday's hearing and look into possibly changing policies for the future.