City confirms more panhandlers in Lexington since Kentucky Supreme Court struck down ordinance

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- Maybe you have noticed more panhandlers out in Lexington. You are not imagining it. The city confirms it, explaining a recent court decision has something to do with the increase.

“Hi sister,” James Powell greets a driver on Sir Barton Way.

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“God bless you. Thank you,” he tells her when she hands him some money from her car window.

Powell says he has been out on the streets of Lexington, asking for help, almost every day for about a month.

Powell says he lost his job hanging dry wall. It has been hard to find another because he is disabled.

He says he broke his leg and never had it properly reset. He has not been able to find help, but says he has to get $45 a night, the fare for the cheapest motel he can find to shelter his family.

“They’re my life, you know what I’m saying? Yeah. They’re everything. You know, my wife and my kids is everything to me,” Powell said.

It is a stressful time.

“Not fun. You gotta put your pride aside, you know?” Powell asked.

He is not alone. At various points throughout the day, someone was looking for help on three out of four sides of the Man O’ War Sir Barton way intersection, sometimes all at the same time.

Some drivers around Lexington find it frustrating. They say since the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down the city’s panhandling ban, they have seen more people with stories and signs, begging for help.

The director of the City’s Office of Homelessness says there has been an increase and he thinks the court’s decision is part of the reason why.

“It removed that barrier for them,” Charlie Lanter said.

He says his office has recently gotten more calls reporting panhandlers. He tells those callers not to give cash.

“You never know someone’s story, and you don’t know if you’re supporting addiction potentially,” Lanter said.

Rather, he says try to guide someone to Lexington’s many shelters or free meal programs. He says panhandling concerns people.

“I think the impression it gives that we have a lot of folks in need in our community that we’re not taking care of them, which isn’t at all the truth,” Lanter said.

He says the community has actually seen a decrease in homelessness. As for the panhandlers, he says the city is researching solutions other communities have used.

James Powell says he understands. He is just thankful for any help he can get.

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Veronica Jean Seltzer joins ABC 36 as Anchor/Reporter. On most weekdays, you will see her reporting the news. VJ hails from a small horse farm outside New York City and most recently comes from South Bend, Indiana where she reported for the CBS and Fox affiliates. VJ holds a Master of Science in Journalism degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. Her passion for journalism runs deep. It began as she studied graffiti as an ancient form of communication in Athens, Greece. While a student journalist in Morocco, she learned her most important journalistic lesson: good stories are about people. VJ loves life in and around Lexington. She feels most at home among horses and a diverse community of fascinating people. She enjoys reporting during the week and on the weekend she strives to bring her neighbors the news that matters most to them. VJ enjoys going to neighborhood events, exploring, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, and good movies. Look for her out and about in the community! VJ invites you to reach out to her with story ideas or just to say hello! Find her on Facebook at Veronica Jean Seltzer ABC 36, tweet her @VJS_ABC36, or email her at VSeltzer@wtvq.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!