Atlanta’s Panhandling Getting Worse, Study Shows

Is anyone really surprised that the Atlanta City Council can’t seem to fix this situation?

“Atlanta is the biggest panhandling city I’ve been to,” said Isaac, 21, who came south in search of better weather and a healthier job market. Even though he’s living on the streets, he’s grown weary of being solicited by other beggars.

Yes, you read that right. It is so bad that a beggar is being asked by other beggars for money. Welcome to Atlanta!


  1. moocher says:

    The fact the ordinance has been a miserable failure is that the City Hall steps and sidewalks are some of the most desirable panhandling spots. The same panhandlers are there every time I’ve needed to go downtown.

    If you can’t enforce the law on City Hall property then where can you enforce it?

    Whether it’s fixing potholes, getting rid of panhandlers, or reducing the hiring / patronage jobs at City Hall; our Mayor has been all talk and no action. With the out-of-control spending we’ve had I’m going to start to year for the days of Bill Campbell.

  2. AubieTurtle says:

    This appears to be localized to certain parts of downtown. I live near the aquarium and panhandling is almost unheard of around here. When I moved here six years ago, vagrants ruled the streets. The same seems to be true in Midtown. I use to not be able to walk a block without being hit up by multiple panhandlers, now begging is pretty rare. The difference is especially noticeable around Colony Square.

    I suspect this has a lot to do with development. When abandoned buildings, vacant lots, and surface parking lots are replaced with buildings that have lots of activity, the panhandlers don’t have a place to slum around. While the increase in pedestrian activity offers more panhandling opportunities, the absence of a place to sprawl out the majority of the day with the items purchased with panhandling money removes the incentive to hassle people.

    With the exception of some of Farlie-Popular, much of the older parts of downtown have limited residential properties and were built with the automobile in mind instead of the pedestrian. As a result, the only people who want to hang out there are the street people. Government buildings are some of the worst offenders as far as good urban design goes.

    With all of that said, there is an obvious absence of commitment to enforce the panhandling laws. Even with the faults of the new law, it isn’t being enforced anywhere as well as it could be. I’m told that much of this isn’t because the city lacks desire to do anything but rather because judges routinely let street people who violate the law (not just panhandling violations) off with “time served”. So the criminal gets to have a night in jail (which I’m sure isn’t quite as nice as many make it out to be) and a couple of free meals, but no real punishment.

    Some citizens have started to attend court and making notes of which judges refuse to punish street criminals but I don’t know how it is going to make much of a difference when these judges almost always run unopposed. It isn’t even a race thing or partisan thing (I know the elections are non-partisan but everyone knows who is who)… when judges run unopposed, they have no reason to care what the citizens think of them. When some “get tough” judges run and get elected, it will be worth the trouble of enforcing the law. While the Fulton County jail is overcrowded, many of the violations are city laws, so wouldn’t they end up in the city jail instead? I’ve never heard about the city jail being overcrowded but then again, I haven’t really researched that issue.

    Anyway, with all that said, I still think it is getting better in terms of the amount of the city that has panhandling problems. For those areas that are still plagued by it (SoNo and apparently everything downtown south of International), the additional concentration makes things worse.

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