St. Augustine woman: 'Homeless people are gone' after panhandling law

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Retailers in downtown St. Augustine are feeling the impact of the city’s new panhandling ordinance -- they say the streets are cleaner and they have more customers.

City commissioner unanimously passed the new law in March.

The ordinance prohibits panhandling within 20 feet of commercial establishments, parking meters, and ATMs.

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Additionally it prohibits the act within 50 feet of schools and day cares. Mayor Nancy Shaver said they’ve noticed a steep increase in arrests.

A spokesperson explained there have been an influx of inmates at the St. Johns County jail.

“This is what happens when you enforce to the letter ordinances. I’m guessing that will dip down again, because this is working very well,” Shaver said.

Janet Brown, a homeless woman, said she witnessed dozens of arrests and feels like the homeless are being pushed out.

“Almost all the homeless people are gone, or they’re in different parts of the city,” Brown said.

Shaver said Friday that the city expects a First Amendment lawsuit over the ordinance. She explained that they have the correct documentation and are not concerned.

A map of areas where panhandling is still allowed in the city is available on the city's website.