Police advise against giving money to solicitors

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SARASOTA-- Ever since a ruling to repeal the City of Sarasota's Soliciting Funds Ordinance, members of the homeless are asking for money at many busy intersections throughout the city.

After a weekend incident where a Good Samaritan was robbed for trying to give some money to a panhandler, Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino is warning residents to be careful.

"The people in Sarasota are very generous and kind, but they are safer and better off not giving money to people who are out soliciting," said DiPino.

The Chief cites some recent numbers that indicate 93 cents of every dollar a homeless person receives while soliciting, is used for drugs, alcohol or prostitution. DiPino says if you want to give money to the homeless, there are better and safer ways of doing it.

"That money is going to be better spent if it is donated to an organization that has a program and a process of helping people who are down on their luck," said DiPino.

Last Saturday, Police say 32-year-old Thomas Lee Biggs stole $50 from a man who was attempting to give him a few bucks. Biggs was later apprehended. Police discovered the money and a glass crack pipe on him. Johnny Morris, a 60-year-old homeless man in Sarasota says people like Biggs gives him a bad name.

"I buy food, cigarettes and Pepsi," said Morris. "All I can say is that there are still some good people around here. Don't look at us because of what he did."

Until the Soliciting Funds/Panhandling Ordinance is revised, members of the homeless can continue asking for money on city streets with signs in hand.

The Chief says her department is in the process of making business cards for motorists to give to the homeless, rather than cash. She says those cards will have vital information on the places the homeless can go to get the help they need.