Panhandlers in Northwest Houston Might Have To Apply for Permits

PANHANDLERS IN NORTHWEST HOUSTON MIGHT HAVE TO APPLY FOR PERMITS A group of residents led by Larry Lipton, public safety chair of the chamber of commerce in Northwest Houston near Cypress Creek Pkwy., is looking to implement a permit system that would require panhandlers to apply to solicit in intersections and medians, reports KHOU’s Jeremy Desel: “Many of them are criminals,” Lipton tells Desel. And a permit system, Lipton explains, “will first limit the number of people that will even do it. That will even go through it.” Desel adds that one of these solicitation permits would likely “require a fee and some form of safety training.” [KHOU] Photo of panhandler David the Sailor at Chimney Rock and Richmond: Bill Bradford

40 Comment

  • Panhandling should be banned, they run through traffic, harass people sitting in cafes, and commit petty crimes in the area. From what I understand they can make over $100 a day (more than minimum wage), so what’s their incentive to get a job? If you cut off the source of the free money, they’ll be forced to do something better.

  • why dont you put em to work processing those permits?

  • Count me among the NWest residents who have watched the corner of Fairbanks North Houston and 290 turn into some sort of perpetual gallery of the saddest face of mankind. It’s not only a hazard, it’s downright depressing and frustrating to see. Am I heartless? I don’t think so.

  • Regulations like this are almost always found unconstitutional on First amendment grounds.

  • Some people either need to get a life or go ahead and die already… cry-baby nanny staters want the government to fix everything??

  • Require permits to force them off the intersections then the City can offer $1 for every bandit sign turned in to specified locations. Maybe even have them go through a brief training and issue a City deputy badge to give them legitimacy if confronted while removing a sign. Clean up both the intersections and right of ways at the same time. The streets might look completely different.

  • heyzeus, that’s interesting. I haven’t done the research, but I can’t imagine a time, place, or manner restriction on speech or speech-related actions like, e.g., don’t loiter in the left-turn lane or on the curb-width median of a busy street, drunk guy, not passing constitutional muster. Then again, surely there are already laws about pedestrians in relation to roadways and where you can and can’t be (i.e., you have to be on the sidewalk or in a crossing zone), so maybe that’s what the courts focus on—enforce those laws, don’t create more that might burden speech?

  • This is so ironic, being in Tea Party leaning Debbie Riddle’s district. I thought all the people who vote for Tea Party types in NW Harris County espouse freedom, liberty, and rail against government regulation and bureaucracy. I feel sure the Rep. Riddle will sponsor a bill soon to prevent any government regulation of panhandlers.

  • Yeah! Make those panhandlers get a job. I hear Jack in the Box is hiring.

  • This is the dumbest idea I’ve heard in ages. Really, really stupid. It’s just a way to give cops a reason to arrest them, that’s all.

  • Yeah that’s the ticket! Make those criminals obtain a permit to panhandle because that surely will deter them.

  • There is one guy near where I live that when finished begging for money for food, gets in his car parked nearby, and goes home. So, the pay must be ok…

  • If you want to get rid of the panhandlers give $1,000 fines to people that give them money.

  • thank you commonsense for teeing this up so beautifully. So, panhandlers can make better than minimum wage doing what they’re doing, and you fault them for that? Someone needs to go back to capitalism school, and it ain’t the panhandler. They’re simply selling a product, and someone’s obviously buying. A hard luck story or a piece of plastic with a chip in it, what’s the difference really if someone buys it. And stop yourself before you knee-jerk with “but panhandlers leave trash, commit crime,” etc. Because corporate panhandlers do none of that. Right? Right.

  • I don’t understand why they can’t site the ones who walk thru traffic for j-walking right now. They are a danger to themselves as well as drivers when they walk between cars as they do. This is more a soliciting problem than a legitimate need problem (i.e.–groups handing out leaflets asking for “donations”). If not j-walking, wait until they drop a single leaflet on the ground and site them for littering. Perhaps arrange for the IRS to do an audit on the ones driving home to see if they’re claiming that income on their taxes after they’re done with a day’s “work.” How about charging them with fraud for misleading the public? At the same time, perhaps a local shelter should be set up to round up and help those with a legitimate need.

  • @anything helps, true, but panhandlers do not file taxes and use public property to turn a profit without compensating the government. Businesses use private property, pay taxes (lets not open that can of worms), and pay for permitting etc.

    P.S. We should bring back Bum Fight videos.

  • Dana-X – I saw someone at the corner of Shepherd & 34th today panhandling, using the back of one of those bandit signs for his placard.

  • Observed one guy at BW-8 and I-10 with a sign that read “Too ugly to prostitute, too honest to steel”. It made me laugh, but I did not give any money. Then about 4 weeks later, I saw the same guy and sign up on I-45 and Rankin. Perhaps the Memorial area location was not profitable enough, and so he moved up north to Rankin Road.

  • we were overwhelmed by pan handlers and window cleaners at the McDonalds on W. Gray-Main. it’s very scary when 4 – 5 people pounce on your car, tapping on windows, yelling.

    these guys don’t care; dont’ need no stinking permit .

    we left with out the cherry berry chiller.

  • Other than “passing by”, no one has brought up an especially serious public problem with panhandling that would necessitate an ordinance. I’m sorry panhandlers depress you Tom Stazer but we can’t require a permit for everything depressing. Panhandlers do walk in the street but so do lots of kids so I guess we’ll have to permit them too. @Thomas, I wish the police would bust the crack dealer on my corner instead of setting up a joint IRS-HPD sting to catch panhandlers who drop a piece of paper and then don’t pay taxes on that quarter. If everyone is so overwhelmed by people holding a sign up asking for money then you must be in a fetal position in the closet for the duration of Girl Scout cookie season. Roll up the windows, turn up the radio and take a deep breath – it’s going to be OK.

  • Panhandlers are a pain in the neck. It’s a real problem downtown. I like it. It’s a good and reliable reminder for those of us who spend most of our time in blind suburban bliss that all is not well in this Christian nation of ours. It doesn’t surprise me that we have many who would rather sweep the problem out of sight and out of mind than trying to actually address the underlying problems there. Why offer them job counseling, treatment for addiction, mental illness, etc? No, we’ll go to the trouble of setting up a permit system. We’ll open an office dedicated to the legal regulation of folks asking for your loose change. What a crock of bull. Solving problems is hard, so let’s just set them up for a night in jail instead. “Don’t lecture me, I give to charity!” Where is your charity, man? Where are these good and righteous people? Do you really believe sleeping under overpasses is the “easy life”? Why aren’t we all doing it, then?

  • Houston’s oldest longest living homeless character is “Spider Man” on 610 @ Memorial or San Felipe

  • Whatever they decide to do, they should be consistent and require the same from folks asking for money for youth sports teams or fire fighters that like to run through traffic like morons with a boot in hand.

  • Motorists should not be held responsible, criminally or civilly if these people enter traffic and are hit by a vehicle.

  • I would give to a homeless actor before I’d give anything to some kid sports team or especially the HFD union employees running around an intersection causing driver distraction.

    And what’s with the Girl Scouts, then Boy Scouts out begging at the front door of some local grocers?? What kind of skills are those kids learning??

    Back in the day we had to go door to door, or get your folks to bother their co-workers, or come up with some other creative selling tactics.

  • paying to police panhandlers is just a preposterous mis-use of funds. people need to realize this country is broke and there’s still lots of actual serious problems that need to be dealt with but can’t because the funding isn’t there.

  • I’ll never forget a couple of years ago, when I saw a panhandler at a light somewhere along Allen Pkwy. I was at the light and he was just getting to his spot along with dog. He pulled out a long shaggy wig and put it on right in front of my eyes. He suddenly went from looking fairly unextraordinary to suddenly looking down and out. He didn’t seem bothered one bit that he was doing in this in front of several people either.

  • Clearly you all seem to take your good fortune for granted; and aren’t burdened with mental, physical, or substance problems. Even the once great JR Richards (Astros pitcher) was homeless and living under a overpass here in town. While an ardent liberal minded person I don’t think the Government has any business whatsoever in legislating this, it’s a huge waste of tax payers money and will be wholly ineffective. In the mean time people have a heart, not everyone is as blessed as you have been.

  • @Jason C
    You’re correct that “time, place, and manner” regulations are generally ok, as long as there’s a significant state interest, and the regulation is narrowly tailored to serve it. However, the regulation has to be content-neutral. The Supreme Court has routinely found that panhandling or soliciting work is a form of either speech or expressive conduct that’s protected by the First Amendment. You’d have to require a permit of _all_ people standing in a median or sidewalk at all times in order for the regulation to be content-neutral.

    And that’s why most ordinances that target panhandling that pass constitutional muster go after things like jaywalking or aggressive conduct – those actions are not forms of protected speech and are content neutral; they’d apply equally to the panhandler in the road as well as the girl scout selling cookies. The bottom line of first amendment cases is that you may not like the content of someone’s speech or expressive conduct, and in fact 99% of us may not like it, but you can’t preclude someone from engaging in it on on that basis.

  • Studies have show most homeless don’t panhandle, and most panhandlers aren’t homeless.

  • One thing is certain, you can’t go anywhere in this town with the window or the top down because these jerks will pester you when stopped at a light. Our city looks like a place in the third world, these guys are everywhere these days!

    Most of these panhandlers are drug addicts and alcoholics, I refuse to give them a cent of my money so that they can live on the fringes of society and indulge their addictions.

    Am I a heartless? Probably, but I get up every morning and go to work to provide for my family and I pay my taxes. I’m tired of the sob stories. It’s not my responsibility to take care of anyone other than my family and my employees.

    It’s time for the city to run these guys off. While they are at it, get rid of the “We guy gold” sign guys too. Thankfully summer is around the corner and the 90 degree heat will make standing a street corner a little harder.

  • I used to give to panhandlers but had a policy not to give to the regulars (not to encourage their choice of lifestyle), and not to give to anybody that looks able bodied and could work fast food or construction jobs. Women and obviously disabled are ok. Now I don’t give to anyone, there are many many other alternatives to panhandling.

    The ones I really hate are the ones that try to “wash” my windshield when I clearly indicated that I do not want them to. I generally give them the look “You touch my car, I will cut your skin off and feed you to carnivorous hogs”. Then they get pissed of when you honk at them or spray them with windshield fluid or start slowly moving.

  • My favorite pandhandler was a dude who approached me outside the downtown bus station. I had just returned from a trip to Austin (I tried the bus for kicks, it wasn’t a bad idea at all) and was standing there with my baggage waiting for my ride when I see this guy walking up. I groaned to myself because I knew what he wanted, but he says to me, “naw man, look, I’ll earn it. I’ll sing any song you want. Seriously! Name the tune, and if I can sing it, you give me a dollar.” I figured what the heck. I told him to sing “The Chair” by George Strait. He was a black guy, I figured he wouldn’t know the words. I’ll be damned if he sang every word! And he sang it well, too! I gave the guy $10 for the song and for teaching me a lesson about racial stereotypes.

  • Please, everyone has some story about a panhandler that they saw once who pulled a 24K gold bike out of some bushes and rode off to the bank after a day milking commuters. There are liars everywhere. You people are the ones giving them money so it’s nobody’s fault but your own. If they are living off the government dole, it’s probably vet benefits and they’ve earned it. A single man with no kids getting approved for welfare is next to impossible. Food stamps…MAYBE.

    Sure panhandling causes some problems but banning it will just cost more taxpayer money trying to enforce it.

    @commonsense – Disgusting…I’ve actually seen those Bumfights videos and they’re morally reprehensible. Kids in Lacoste shirts paying drunk homeless men to get facial tattoos, hogtying and kidnapping sleeping men then Sharpie-ing their foreheads in Steve Irwin voices and throwing them out of a moving van, handing out 40z beers filled with urine and then setting their hair on fire and that’s BEFORE the fighting.

  • Whatever money it would cost to set up and enforce this program should be used to post signs at problem intersections. The signs simply say “Giving cash or packaged goods to panhandlers can enable addiction. Please donate to a soup kitchen, training center, or recovery program instead. Visit for a list of reputable charities.” People can still panhandle there, but any sympathy they evoke will be directed to more effective solutions.

  • I have a harder time with the folks who send their kids out with the football team begging for money at 288 and Southmore (and I’m sure other places). They literally kick out the panhandlers who are usually there to have their kids take over. It is disgusting.

  • Many of us with a mentally ill relative, specifically one with schizophrenia, would be deeply interested in learning how that can be successfully treated. Spare me the meaningless compassion-in-a-vacuum. If you are interested in the problem of homelessness, you should be interested in federal funding of mental illness research. Practically speaking, what that means is, don’t elect anti-science politicians (for a host of reasons); and the next time you’re somewhere and they pass the hat for breast cancer, decline. It has received more than its share, thanks to brilliant marketing; and we’ve learned a lot from it, no mistake. But schizophrenia is widespread and equally devastating and it is time for it to be similarly politicized.
    As to the panhandling, we erred on the side of freedom forty years ago. It is unrealistic to expect the result to be any prettier than what it replaced.

  • @passing by, I routinely drive down west gray by that mc donalds at least once a week, if not more often to get to the randalls on louisiana. I have never had anyone walk up to my car in the street. cabs decide to park 3 lanes into traffic, or whatever, but never anyone coming up to my car. I don’t know about the parking lot for mc donalds, I haven’t eaten at mc donalds in more than 10 years, and even if I did, that particular location would be off my list anyway.

    @markd, I was in the scouts and we sold things at grocery stores, never asked for donations, try listening to them rather than just ignoring them, you’d probably find that the girl scouts are probably selling cookies, and the boy scouts are selling candy, or coupon books. it’s a lot safer to sell at a grocery store than door to door, and you get more exposure. plus they are allowed by the grocery store to do this.

  • It was a sad day when I first saw school age kids raising money by panhandling… shameful!