Panhandling restrictions get attention in Bay County

BAY CITY (AP) — Commissioners in Bay County are considering whether to urge townships to pass laws to limit panhandling.

County Executive Thomas Hickner compares panhandlers to seagulls and said they might go away if people stop giving them money, The Bay City Times  reported.

“There was a time where we had a lot of seagulls in the county and it was very irritating,” Hickner said. “It was suggested to me that if people didn’t feed them, you wouldn’t have a problem. I think that makes sense in this problem.”

Panhandling is growing throughout the county and especially in Bay City, Bangor Township and Monitor Township, Hickner added.

People seeking money in public is legal, but local governments can regulate it.

The Bay City Commission already has approved legislation regulating panhandling within the city limits. The city has put limits on hours and where panhandlers can gather.

“Since the city adopted its ordinance, there are two main areas in Monitor and Bangor where these individuals are always there,” Hickner told the newspaper. “I feel giving these people money is not the most effective way to help them. They either have a mental illness issue, or they are trying to rip people off.”

But Matthew Gray, who says he’s an Army veteran, says panhandling helps him pay for a motel room.

He panhandles five or six days a week and can make about $30 on average, he said. On Christmas, he made nearly $150.

“I’m legally allowed to stand here with my sign,” Gray said.