During the committee and ward report section of a recent Milford City Council agenda, Councilwoman Katrina Wilson commented that she had received several complaints from residents about panhandling at intersections of Route 113. Councilwoman Wilson stated that many people felt the issue was getting out of hand.
“I’m assuming they are homeless, but it’s becoming overwhelming,” Councilwoman Wilson said. “I definitely can relate to their concerns because it is not just daytime. They’re staying out there longer and longer, depending on whichever corners are getting more and it makes individuals very uncomfortable. I know this is happening throughout the United States but wondered if there was something we could do about it.”
Mayor Archie Campbell thanked Councilwoman Wilson for bringing up the issue and stated that when he lived in the city, there were ordinances against loitering. He also commented that he had seen one of the individuals getting out of a brand new car, head into Burger King to change clothes and come back out with a sign.
“So, the Attorney General’s Office has told us that we cannot arrest them for standing there with signs,” Acting Police Chief Ed Huey said. “As long as they are on sidewalks or in the median, we cannot arrest them. Now, we have been issuing tickets if they step off that curb to retrieve money and it is witnessed by us. But unfortunately, the Attorney General’s Office has given us specific directions.”
Councilman Todd Culotta suggested looking at Seaford’s ordinances, stating that they just passed regulations that would not allow people to stand in the median or in lanes.
“I think we all appreciate the point that these folks have to do this and it’s not our place to judge,” Councilman Culotta said. “I think there’s things we can do that prevents this in certain places. I think Seaford recently went through this and maybe we should look at some of what they did.”
Councilman Jason James concurred with Councilman Culotta, pointing out that the people standing in the median or a lane were a safety issue.
“What’s the driver’s risk of being afraid to hit the person?” Councilman James said. “They’re so close, your mirror could hit them and that could be a lot of trouble. I’ve also spoken with this with people who represent groups of realtors that when they’re showing properties and trying to get people to come to Milford and invest in Milford, one of the things they look at is the number of panhandlers we have in our medians and things of that nature. It has had a negative impact on our efforts in economic growth.”
Councilman Brian Baer asked if this was mainly along Route 113 and Councilwoman Wilson stated that it was. She also had seen individuals step into the road if a car is giving a donation, making it even more dangerous.
“It also makes people angry because they don’t like it,” Councilwoman Wilson said. “Other people, they are just concerned about safety.”
Councilman Baer agreed, pointing out that the traffic on Route 113 was very heavy. He stated that his wife had also seen one of the panhandlers get out of a very new car holding a sign.
“I’m glad Mrs. Wilson brought this up,” Councilwoman Nirmala Samaroo said. “I got a few emails from constituents saying that they had recommended some of the programs for low income families for housing to one of these people and they were not qualified. Other programs, they had to go on a long waiting list. So, they have concerns about what they should do. I don’t have the answer because when I looked up the requirements on those programs, based on their situation, they’re not qualified.”
Councilwoman Samaroo suggested the city look further into a tiny home project or something that would help provide homes for those that were currently facing homelessness. City Manager Mark Whitfield stated that the matter would be added to a future workshop as he had also received multiple letters and emails regarding the problem.
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