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Shelton: City Residents Asking For Solution

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader

Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton said the city has an obligation to help the community’s homeless population as well as residents who have been impacted by panhandling.

Shelton told council members Thursday night citizens are asking for a solution. Shelton said calls to law enforcement concerning panhandling have increased 350 percent in the first eight months of this year.

“This isn’t really a First Amendment issue,” Shelton said. “This is more to make sure that we make citizens feel safe and also protect the people that are doing this.”

Shelton said the city’s efforts, labeled by some as an attempt to penalize those down on their luck, is really about public safety.

“It is truly public safety, street safety, where we have large groups of people gathering on our streets at intersections, at the interstate, often times very close to traffic, often times stepping into traffic, sometimes impeding traffic, soliciting money,” Shelton said. “It is a community problem. So we want to come up with a community solution, certainly not trying to label or stigmatize anyone.”

Resources such as the Cookeville Rescue Mission or local church programs are available to help those who need help. Shelton said the new Substance Abuse Services contract with UCHRA will make even more assistance available. But many do not want the help.

“Many of these people don’t fit in that first category of necessarily homeless,” Shelton said. “They’re choosing this path of panhandling, often times making more money. Some of these folks have been offered jobs. They said, ‘no, I’ll make more money doing this.’ You know, that is not really what should be being done, especially when it’s causing a public safety issue.”

City Council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance September 17.


The post Shelton: City Residents Asking For Solution appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.