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Some Call Tennessee's Aggressive Panhandling Law 'Vague'

Panhandling Law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. When does begging for money go too far? Aggressive panhandling is illegal in Tennessee and Nashville but that doesn't keep some from walking up to your car window. Some say the law is vague.

Some parts of the City ordinance are clear: You can't panhandle at a bus stop, or a sidewalk café or 25 feet from an ATM but other parts of the law aren't as clear.

One man often seen on Rosa Parks Blvd. at the I-40 E exit goes right up to cars asking people for money.

"Excuse me sir. I need help! I need some help!" he says while captured on video. "They are 5 and 3 years old and their mom's been dead for years."

Sad story or not, it makes some uncomfortable being confronted by someone begging.

"I don't think anyone likes getting approached with that, I don't think," said Albert Stark, visiting Nashville from Canada.

"You aggressively go out after someone trying to get money you just cannot do it," said Walter Hunt, a former Metro City councilman.

Hunt introduced the bill that outlawed aggressive panhandling in Nashville. It says you can't beg for money after dark, you can't touch someone or continue to beg when someone says 'no' and the ordinance states that panhandler can't force or "compel" someone to make a donation.

"I think it's too vague," said Samuel Lester, a homeless outreach worker for Open Table. "Some people are very sensitive to their personal space and might object to somebody just speaking to them."

Lester doesn't think aggressive panhandling should be illegal at all, unless a panhandler gets violent. After all, being homeless is tough.

"My neck is broken," said Rodney Sanders, who is homeless.

Sanders says he got hit by a car living his life on the streets," being homeless is like Hell on Earth."

Despite his circumstances, he says he doesn't panhandle, however he does give to panhandlers when he can.

"Do you ever question what they're going to do with the money?" asked Reporter Sabrina Hall.

"No. That's not up to me to decide," said Sanders.

As for guy who frequents Rosa Parks Blvd., who says he's begging for his children, we found him later walking down a street enjoying a beer and a cigarette.

According to State law, aggressive panhandling is a class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine or up to 90 days in jail.

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