POCAHONTAS, Ark. (KAIT) - Pandhandling is a well-known topic in Northeast Arkansas, and as the holidays approach, more areas could be seeing an increase in those asking for help.
The City of Pocahontas said over the last few months, the amount of panhandlers across town has only increased.
For some in the town, it’s a cause of concern and suspicion of if they actually need help.
“I feel unsafe and uncomfortable,” said Pocahontas Resident Samantha Gentry when asked about how she feels when approached by a panhandler. “There is one that has a really healthy dog. They’re always clean. I feel like if they were homeless, they would be a little dirty.”
Gentry said lately she’s seen a handful of panhandlers near the Walmart in town.
“Most of the time they’re at the Y when you’re driving out and have signs, but I’ve been approached at the Murphy’s asking for gas money,” Gentry explained.
Pocahontas Mayor Keith Sutton said while the city doesn’t have an ordinance prohibiting panhandling, it usually doesn’t have control over the land where they stand.
“When they’re on a state-owned right of way, there isn’t anything we can do. If they’re on private property, we can move them, and we have before,” the mayor explained.
Sutton doesn’t believe many panhandlers in the city limits are Pocahontas or even Randolph County residents.
“A lot of people come in from out of town. They split up and panhandle, then come back, and I don’t know what happens from there,” Sutton said.
The mayor said until the city can do something to stop it, he encourages everyone to do one thing.
“It’s heartfelt, but don’t participate. We’ve contacted the state and tried to get them to change their ordinance, but it’s something that isn’t going to change any time soon,” Mayor Sutton said.
The police department can only ask panhandlers to move off city and privately owned property.