Arresting Panhandlers - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Arresting Panhandlers

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If you haven't driven down Westheimer near Fountain View in a while prepare for a shock.

There's a different look to the area near the swanky Galleria Mall.

Gianni Bonanno says, "I'm doing this to try and survive until I find something better."

Bonanno accepts his life as a panhandler on the streets of Houston.

He's in an area that's now filled with hands asking for spare change.

That's why Bonanno tries to set himself apart from the usual panhandling suspects along Westheimer.

He says, "I'm 33 and I don't look that old and figured I had to work a little harder making a bunch of Homer signs."

That cartoon cutout has managed to fill his pockets on the streets. The homeless man says he's out 6 days a week for a big Sunday payoff where he stays in a motel room instead of the streets.

Bonanno says, "I don't spend my money on drugs or alcohol or anything like that it basically puts me in a room pay my phone bill so people can call me for a job."

No matter how admirable that sounds those who work and live in the area are getting fed up with the panhandlers who are in some instances homeless.

Iric Saldivar is a business owner in the area. He says, "it becomes a problem where people are pretty much being bothered you know local businesses people going to them and people asking them for money you see people arguing with each other and it creates other issues as well."

Our camera was there as HPD officers snatched a panhandler off the corner of Weslayan near 59. We also witnessed a panhandler and his sign being driven away by cops near Riesner. But HPD officers actually say they are powerless against the growing street solicitation problem.

Sgt. Stephen Which says, "you had a class C misdemeanor at that time - a charge that you could use for solicitation from the roadway...but we no longer have it."

Sgt. Wick says they lost that solicitation tool in 2011 when a local newspaper sued claiming the ordinance prevented their vendors on the streets from selling papers. As a result HPD couldn't use that weapon to get those panhandlers off the streets. Wick says the only solution - a new ordinance.

"That's handled through City Council," says Wick.

Back on Westheimer that leaves Bonanno on the streets free in clear until he crosses that line or an officer finds a reason to arrest him again.

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