Residents say aggressive panhandlers moving closer to neighborhoods

A west Houston neighborhood is fighting back against the problem

HOUSTON - A west Houston neighborhood is fighting back against a problem that's usually just seen at busy inner city intersections. They say aggressive panhandlers are now moving in closer to where their families live.

Residents from several west Houston neighborhoods are banding together to fight what they see as a growing problem. They say an increasing number of panhandlers are becoming aggressive and that's beginning to threaten their quality of life.

Panhandling in Houston roadways is illegal but homeowners in this west Houston community say beggars have become a permanent part of the landscape and there seems to be more of them. Johnny Lozano says his recent encounter with a panhandler may have crossed the line.

"She basically said, 'You look like a fun guy. I'm a fun girl.' I said, 'What kind of fun girl are you?' She said, 'Tell me what you want and I'll tell you how much,'" Lozano said.

From Highway 6 at Westheimer to Highway 6 at Richmond, they say panhandlers are stationing themselves at every busy intersection they can find, often holding court in the esplanades hassling drivers; and they're getting better organized.

"We have white vans that come and drop people off and pick them up at the end of the day. We feel like that organized businesses are getting involved and when they really get entrenched we may have a hard time stopping it," said Dianne Williams.

The superneighborhood's homeless committee recently sent a letter to homeowners urging them to "follow HPD's recommendation to refrain from giving panhandlers anything, especially cash handouts which only attracts more panhandlers into the neighborhood."

They would like to see police do more.

"This is like the Wild West. We call it the Wild West of Houston. Laws are not being enforced out here," said Jack O'Connor.

Letters were sent out to residents in 23 different homeowners associations. Organizers have taken their concerns to city hall and are currently working with their local councilman.

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