Center City Commission fights downtown panhandlers

If you live, work or play in Downtown Memphis, you've probably been approached by a panhandler.

"They hang out around here and they walk down the street and they constantly harass people. Panhandling isn't a job, it's a hustle," said Memphian Will Anderson, who works downtown.

But some panhandlers say they're not hustlers, they're simply homeless people who need help.

O-J Davis came up to us asking for money while we were shooting this story. It's something he claims he doesn't do often.

"Well sometime I might want to stay at the mission, it cost $8, I have nowhere to stay," Davis said.

But homeless advocates warn, not all panhandlers are actually homeless.

"A lot of them may have a place that they're staying but they've figured out that this is a pretty good way to make money," said Steve Carpenter with the Memphis Union Mission.

They make money because people give it to them and the Center City Commission wants that to stop.

"Giving money to panhandlers does not help anybody," says Center City Commission board member Paul Morris.

Morris said panhandling is the number one complaint he gets from residents, business owners and tourists. The "Just say no to panhandling campaign" encourages people who are tempted, to find another use for their money.

"It is so important that people know that any spare change that they have they should give to an organization that truly helps the needy," Morris said.

According to the Center City Commission, this campaign is just the beginning.

They are also working with Memphis Police to get more officers downtown, something they say has significantly curbed panhandling in other cities.

Panhandling after dark is illegal, as is aggressive report it, call 575-0556...

The center City Commission has also created an information web page on can find that web page through ours, wmctv-dot-com..

Click on the "I saw it on Action News Five" link in the middle of the home page.