Tonight, Melbourne City Council members will discuss repealing an ordinance on panhandling.
“This is a step toward presenting an ordinance which will outlaw a vehicle occupant and pedestrian to ‘transact’ any item while in a travel lane,” said Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey in a Facebook post on June 4.
 
In the same post, Alfrey described the current city ordinance as “old” and “problematic.” Alfrey suggests the safer option is for people to donate directly to nonprofits if they wish to give money to folks in need.
 
Alfrey said his “Safe Use of Roads and Medians” ordinance will improve traffic, pedestrian safety and deter panhandling.
 
“You are free to panhandle, as it is your first amendment right. However, if you are a driver or passenger of a vehicle, you can be regulated in a vehicle,” Alfrey said.
 
People can still be trespassed and removed from certain spaces at police discretion. If passed, violators could be hit with 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fines.
 
On May 4, in a 6-1 vote, the city council approved Alfrey’s ordinance during a special meeting on panhandling and homelessness. Tonight’s meeting will bring the ordinance one step closer to getting passed.
 
The city council continues to work on efforts to combat homelessness with community partners and provide affordable housing options.
 
According to Melbourne Police Chief David Gillespie, the area where the highest frequency of panhandling complaints originate is at the corner of U.S. 1 and Eau Gallie Boulevard with more than 200 calls received in the past three years. The police department also gets a high volume of calls about the corners of U.S. 1 and Strawbridge Avenue and Eau Gallie Boulevard and John Rodes Boulevard.
 
The Melbourne City Council meeting starts at 6:30 pm tonight in the Council Chamber at City Hall which is located at 900 East Strawbridge Avenue, Melbourne. You can also tune in to the meeting virtually on their website at https://www.melbourneflorida.org/.../city-council-meetings.