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What difference has Palm Beach County's panhandling law made?

Posted at 7:00 PM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-18 19:01:00-04

Leaders in Lake Worth want to cut down on panhandling. They argue its a safety issue for panhandlers and drivers.

Sean Henzel said he has the best job in the world.

“Everybody waves to me,” he said waving back to drivers as he stood on a median at 6th Avenue South and I-95 in Lake Worth. 

For the past six years, he’s bounced from intersection to highway exit ramp with his sign.

“It says ‘A smile and a wave makes my day.’ And it does,” Henzel said a smile of his own.   

He claimed he's not homeless, he simply enjoys interacting with drivers from the median.

Lake Worth city leaders call it a public safety issue. They've targeted five areas where they want to prohibitpeople from canvassing or soliciting along the road. This week, the gave a proposed ordinance the preliminary green light, setting up a final vote in June. 

In July 2015 Palm Beach County beefed up its anti-panhandling laws. Court records show deputies wrote 26 panhandling citations since then.

People west of Boca Raton, where panhandling became an issue, say they've noticed fewer panhandlers since the 2015 ordinance.

But some Lake Worth taxpayers think money would be better spent on providing the homeless with resources, instead of writing them tickets.

“If they need housing, let's help them get it,” said Lillian Lewis. “If they need a job, let's get them training.”

Henzel admitted he won’t let the new law Lake Worth leaders will vote on next month keep him from doing his "job."