SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A group in Seminole County held a protest Thursday, calling for panhandling to be illegal in the community.
The group Taking Seminole County Back stood at busy intersections on S.R. 436 holding signs that read, "The people below are not truly homeless!! They make $400-$800 a week doing this!! Please, do not give them money and they will leave our neighborhood!!"
It is the season of giving, but the group does not want residents to give their money to panhandlers.
"It's disheartening to see people making all of this tax-free income. We're talking $50, $75, up to $100 an hour in panhandling," Jim Shaw, a member of the grassroots effort, said.
The group claims many of the panhandlers in the area near Balmy Beach Drive, Bear Lake Road and Hunt Club Boulevard aren't homeless. Members of the group said they have offered help several times, including giving them jobs.
"I said I will pay you money to hold my business sign while you sit here. [The panhandler said] how much? I said $20 an hour. He said, 'We make $50, so why would I hold your sign?'" said Annette Sims, the organizer of Taking Seminole County Back.
News 6 tried asking a panhandler questions, but she packed up her stuff rather than talk to us.
"It's just easier to scam people out of money, especially the elderly," said Jake Jackubowski, with Taking Seminole County Back.
The panhandlers are not breaking the law since they are not aggressive and are standing on public space.
"Law enforcement is doing what they can do, but in large part, people are legally operating in accordance to the law," Shaw said.
The group wants to make panhandling illegal. Some members of the community support their mission, while others question how the group can tell if the panhandlers are impostors.
"It's about time because it lowers the neighborhood's value to see beggars on the street," resident John Mameletzi said.
"How do you know they're not [homeless]?" one woman asked.
Seminole County officials told News 6 they can't tell if the panhandlers are homeless or not, but say they work with the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida to provide housing and other resources.