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.
“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.