County Seeks to Crack Down on Panhandling in Medians and Intersections

County staff are exploring ways to curb panhandling by prohibiting pedestrians from engaging with cars on medians or intersections. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed staff to create a draft ordinance that would limit curb to curb interactions between drivers and pedestrians on Tuesday (July 16).

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity and Braddock District Supervisor John Cook proposed the board matter in response to reports of increased panhandling in the last two years, including several areas in Reston.

In 2017, the Fairfax County Police Department received more than 2,100 calls related to panhandling, including issues related to safety, fear of suspicious people and traffic issues.

“It is unsafe and detracts from our neighborhoods,” Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, the proposal’s co-sponsor, said in a news release. “We have good programs in this county and many nonprofit groups who help the homeless, and that is a better way to help.”

Here’s more from the proposal by Herrity and Cook:

In the past two years, there has been a noticeable increase in panhandling on medians and intersections throughout the County. While there are some who panhandle because they need to, many more take advantage of the generosity of our residents through panhandling rings. Investigation into these rings has proven that many panhandlers in our County are coming from outside the County and even outside of the state, attracted by the wealth and generosity of our residents.

The Board has sought to help those panhandlers in need by committing a significant portion of the County budget to providing services for those residents who are down on their luck. The Board has encouraged residents to direct panhandlers to these County resources including shelters, food banks, health and job matching services, instead of giving small amounts of money. It is vitally important that we connect those in need with the right services and disincentivize panhandling.

Asking for money is a protected First Amendment right. In public areas, seeking money does not violate any laws.

FCPD encourages residents to report concerns about panhandlers who may have committed traffic offenses or be in involved in criminal activity to police.

The board will consider the proposal at the Public Safety Committee’s meeting on Sept. 17.

It’s unclear how the proposed policy will maintain protected speech.

To what extent do you think panhandling is a problem in Reston and Herndon? Let us know in the comments below.

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Del. Ken Plum: Looking on the Sunny Side

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Following the daily news coming out of our Nation’s Capital is enough to leave anyone despondent. The backing away from long-sought freedoms against discrimination and oppression to a seeming lack of concern about the health of our planet and its people to a rise in hateful speech and behavior punctuated by the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the many contribute to the feeling of desperation on the part of many who share values very different than those holding positions of power today. Add to the very real concerns about the direction of our country the plight of millions around the world and one can become very depressed.

I remind myself regularly that it is important to remember that behind all the dark clouds there is a sunny side. While my examples of the sunny side will be from our community over the last couple of days, the sunshine of care and compassion shines in different ways and intensities throughout the world every day We sometimes have to clean the lenses through which we view our community and the world to gain a clearer perspective of where we are and where we are headed.

Just last weekend Jane and I spent an evening with the caring and compassionate people in our community who raise money and work through FISH (Friendly, Immediate, Sympathetic Help) to help those who are down on their luck pay their utility bills and rent, fill prescriptions, and learn to manage their finances. A golf tournament this week with Kids R First along with the volunteer help of many will provide funding to ensure that thousands of children in our region start school with book bags filled with needed school supplies. Students in South Lakes High School (SLHS) who do not have enough to eat at their homes can get food through the SLHS Food Pantry on school days and for the weekends.

Days in a homeless shelter can no doubt seem bleak despite the best efforts of volunteers to make them seem otherwise, but nothing can replace the burst of sunshine that comes from Cornerstones and all its supporters who work mightily to end homelessness in our community. I spent an evening recently with the volunteers of Britepaths who are doing the same kind of work in other areas of our region bringing hope to many.

I spend time monthly with volunteers from Moms Demand Action, Brady Campaign, and other groups working to end gun violence. Their commonsense approach to the public health crisis of gun violence will pay off. I continue to be impressed with the determination and hard work of the Herndon-Reston Indivisibles who are devoted to the election of caring candidates to office and to bring focus on bad public policies.

I am honored to be in public office to observe and participate in the hard work of citizens who bring sunshine where it is needed. I have listed just a few examples. Join with us and pull back the shades to let the sunshine in. Let me know at [email protected] if you are looking for ways to become involved.

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Hunter Mill District Candidates to Discuss Affordable Housing

Cornerstones, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals overcome tough economic times, is hosting a forum on affordable housing next month for candidates running for the Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat

The event, which takes place on Monday, May 13 from 7-9 p.m. at Heritage Fellowship Church (2501 Fox Mill Road), was organized in response to the “housing affordability crisis” in Fairfax County, according to Cornerstones. More than 44 percent of renters and 22 percent of homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the county’s strategic plan.

Candidates for the Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat will answer questions about affordable housing and economic development in Fairfax County from a panel of businesses and community leaders. A meet and greet reception will follow the question-and-answer period at 8:30 p.m.

Rev. Debra Haffner of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston will moderate the event. The forum is free and open to all, but attendees should register online. Hunter Mill District residents can submit questions about affordable housing to [email protected]. Questions will be selected prior to the event.

The Hunter Mill District Supervisor election is set for June 11.

Photo by Reston Association

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