Program aims to address panhandling


By Amanda Amsel
Staff Writer

Franklin Township is joining the city of Columbus to protect drivers.

At a recent meeting, the board passed a resolution allowing the city to place signs stating
“Panhandling Prohibited Citywide” on exit ramps throughout the township.

The signs are an effort by Columbus to protect drivers, who many times stop on exit ramps to give panhandlers a few dollars.

Friends of the Hilltop Operations Manager William Huffman spoke about the issue.

“The panhandling issue is getting worse and by summer it will be in full swing,” he said. “We are trying to be proactive on this before summer gets here. Some of the panhandlers have become aggressive and stop traffic to ask for money and get nasty if you don’t give them money.”

While it is not illegal to panhandle along city streets during daylight hours, panhandlers are not allowed to be aggressive or put driver’s lives in danger. However, according to Huffman, that is exactly what they are doing when they are asking for money at exit ramps.

“We have nothing against those trying to earn a living, but not when they are on city, county, township or state right-of-way properties, which are the entrance and exit ramps to the freeways,” he said. “In October of last year, a panhandler stopped a car going north on Wilson Road from Sullivant Ave. and was struck by the driver behind him because the elderly woman did not see him in time to stop and a car behind her hit her all because of a panhandler stopping the car and caused a three-car accident.”

This is why Columbus has asked the township to display these signs. While they don’t expect this to stop panhandlers, they hope it will raise awareness among drivers and encourage to not stop at exit ramps to give money.

Huffman said the panhandlers, particularly the ones in Franklin Township, also leave litter in the township, something he hopes the trustees will address down the road.

Right now, according to Huffman, there is an heroin epidemic on the westside, which is a causing an increase in panhandlers in township. He said, organizations are working to address these issues and get these people off the street.

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