City of Gainesville continues efforts to regulate panhandling

After several years, Gainesville city officials are still trying to find a way to regulate panhandling in Gainesville.

The death of a panhandler in the intersection of 43rd Street and 23rd Avenue back in April has furthered the discussion.

In April of 2019, David Washington was hit by a car and killed while standing in a median.
Washington was panhandling, a practice the city is working to regulate.
Florida ACLU members tell TV20 implementing an ordinance against panhandling can be complicated.
"If someone is holding a sign on the sidewalk, what are the compelling state interests? It's really hard to think of one, right, because sidewalks and parks are generally known as public forums," said Jacqueline Azis of the Florida ACLU.

Azis says past ordinances, like one in Alachua County, have not held up in court because enforcers can't prove the ordinance serves a compelling state interest.
She says the language of these policies often challenge free speech rights

The City of Gainesville spokesperson, Chip Skinner, says city officials have been researching ways to fix the language of their ordinance.
"We're reaching out to our sister cities in different communities, seeing what ordinances they have on the books, and then trying to incorporate that into ours to where we can make it enforceable for law enforcement," said Skinner.

In the meantime, city officials are working with law enforcement to keep panhandlers out of harm's way.

The ordinance to regulate panhandling in Gainesville has been in the works for several years.