Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg ordinance thins ranks of panhandlers, but there are desperate holdouts

Michael Ivy lost his ID card. Someone stole his bike. He's only trying to eat.

That's why he was at Fourth Street and Gandy Boulevard last Friday, holding a sign that read "Homeless Hungry Please Help."

That's why a St. Petersburg police officer arrested him under the city's new panhandling ordinance.

That's why he sat in the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday morning, speaking from a video hookup.

"What else am I supposed to do?" the 59-year-old asked. "I'm a homeless man trying to make a dollar."

Ivy's one of about 15 people who have been cited through Monday for breaking St. Petersburg's new panhandling ordinance, which went into effect mid June. He's been charged six times, more than any other panhandler.

The City Council unanimously passed the ordinance to stop the increase in panhandling that troubled many neighborhood and business leaders. The law prohibits any transaction between pedestrians and motorists on the city's busiest streets.

Officer Richard Linkiewicz, head of St. Petersburg's homeless outreach program, said the ordinance's impact was quick.

Sign holders have mostly vanished from their perches near Interstate 275 exits and Fourth Street. Many have moved to Tampa and Hillsborough County, where shelters have seen a surge in meals served.

"When they passed the ordinance, it was overnight," Linkiewicz said. "Most people with signs just disappeared."

But not all.

Some panhandlers may have simply crossed the bridge, though it's impossible to know how many. In Pinellas County and St. Petersburg, it appears at least some holdouts remains.

Panhandling won't ever completely go away, said Jamie Bennett, a former City Council member who now works at Beacon House, a homeless shelter at 2151 Central Ave.

"There is a group that is confrontational about this issue," Bennett said. "And they make it their holy grail."

He said it's a lifestyle choice, and many people choose to live it.

Sitting in jail, Ivy said he can't speak for everybody, but he needs to panhandle stay alive.

"I don't have a choice," he said.

He makes about $20 a day, he said. Enough for soda, cigarettes and sometimes a burger from McDonald's.

He understands why the law was passed. Some people knock on car windows and bother folks, he said. That's not his style, he said.

"If you talk to me, I'll talk back," he said. "If someone offers me a cigarette, I'll take a smoke."

When he gets out of jail next Friday after serving his 10 days, Ivy's going to walk back to Fourth Street and Gandy, he said. He'll probably have another sign. And he'll probably get charged again.

Andy Boyle can be reached at (727) 893-8804 or

St. Petersburg ordinance thins ranks of panhandlers, but there are desperate holdouts 08/12/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 12, 2010 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Water Hogs: During drought, hundreds of Tampa Bay homes guzzled a gallon of water a minute


    When Amalie Oil president Harry Barkett plunked down $6.75-million for his Bayshore Boulevard mansion, he picked up 12.5 bathrooms, a pool, a hot tub, an elevator and a deck bigger than some one-bedroom apartments.

    During one of the worst droughts in the Tampa Bay region's history, hundreds of houses used more than a gallon of water a minute. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times

  2. PolitiFact Florida checks out Rick Baker's talking point about the growth of St. Petersburg's A-rated schools


    Rick Baker has used mailers, forums and social media to relay one big message in his campaign for St. Petersburg mayor: Schools in St. Petersburg saw drastic improvements when he was mayor from 2001 to 2010.

    Rick Baker, candidate for St. Petersburg mayor
  3. Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelly talks family, songwriting and more before Tampa show

    Music & Concerts

    A while back at the Grammys, Charles Kelley found himself in the same room as Paul McCartney. The Lady Antebellum singer, a seven-time Grammy winner in his own right, couldn't work up the courage to say hello.

    Lady Antebellum perform at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday. Credit: Eric Ray Davidson
  4. Clearwater suspect due in court after 9 die in sweltering San Antonio truck


    SAN ANTONIO — Nine people are dead and the death toll could rise after emergency crews pulled dozens of people from a sweltering tractor-trailer found parked outside a Walmart in the midsummer Texas heat, victims of what officials said was an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.

    San Antonio police officers investigate the scene where eight people were found dead in a tractor-trailer loaded with at least 30 others outside a Walmart store in stifling summer heat in what police are calling a horrific human trafficking case, Sunday, July 23, 2017, in San Antonio. [Associated Press]
  5. Email warning ignored before St. Pete started spewing sewage


    ST. PETERSBURG — A draft report lays blame for the city's sewage crisis squarely on the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman and a cascading series of errors that started with the now infamous shuttering of the Albert Whitted Water Reclamation Facility in 2015.

    Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September 2016 to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage from the city's overwhelmed sewer system. St. Petersburg dumped up to 200 million gallons of sewage over 13 months from 2015-16. A new state report blames much of the crisis on mistakes made by the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman, but also critcizes past administrations. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]