SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio councilman is teaming up with a former opponent to fight homelessness and aggressive panhandling.
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry said the problem is spreading from the center of the city to outside corridors and it’s affecting his constituents.
“Panhandlers are being aggressive out there, and it’s frightening to people out there going shopping in the businesses,” he said.
Perry is also worried about the panhandlers who are risking their lives running through traffic to beg for money. He’s calling on area members and faith-based organizations to help tackle the issue. He tapped Diana Kenny to lead the Taskforce for the Homeless and Panhandling in District 10.
Kenny campaigned on the issue when she was running against Perry during the city election and said she’s happy to help.
“It’s such a large problem and so complex,” she said.
Some of the goals of the task force include researching what’s worked for other cities with similar problems, getting the metrics of the problem, setting up immediate help for those who need help right away — which may include temporary shelters — and creating public service announcements to educate the public.
"So many people ask how they can help the problem and not contribute to it intentionally,” Kenny said.
“There’s a lot of help out there, but everything is going out on a different direction,” Perry said.
Perry wants to form a central focal point around which all agencies can unite resources.
The city already has laws that prohibit panhandlers from being within 50 feet of certain high-traffic areas. It’s a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500 for anyone who breaks the law.
Former Councilman Mike Gallagher pushed to strengthen the law, but his suggestion was not heard before the entire City Council.
Perry said his goal is not only to reduce the number of panhandlers but also reduce the homeless population by providing them help.
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