Kenneth Darrell Atkins stood at the end of an Interstate 75 exit ramp this week, holding a sign that said "HOMELESS HUNGRY" and solicited money from motorists turning onto State Road 54.
But after he was arrested by a Pasco deputy on a charge of obstructing a public highway, authorities learned he was neither homeless nor hungry. Atkins, 43, was carrying an ID card that shows he lives in Zephyrhills with his parents, just eight miles from the interstate.
"I honestly don't know what we're going to do with him," said Fredia Atkins, 67, who said her son has done this sort of thing before, making as much as $50 a day. She said she thinks he spends the money on alcohol.
"He has his own bedroom. He has food to eat. Kenny is not homeless and he is not hungry," she said. "He won't keep a job. We never know when he takes off where he's going."
Deputy Brett Landsberg arrested Atkins on Wednesday after he watched him approaching cars that had stopped at the end of the exit ramp. In an arrest affidavit, Landsberg said the man's actions "hindered the flow of traffic, causing vehicles to swerve around him or stop to let him past."
He was booked into jail, and corrections officers reportedly found $28.83 in his pockets, as well as the ID card listing his address.
Tuesday night, Mrs. Atkins said, her son called home and said he was in Atlanta, bound for Michigan. She said she hadn't heard from the Sheriff's Office or her son as of Thursday afternoon, but after learning of Kenny's arrest from a reporter, she said she expected the call.
But she said she wouldn't post the $500 bail needed to get her son out of jail.
"We've gotten him out of so many scrapes, we finally refused to do that," Mrs. Atkins said. In the past, Kenny has been arrested on charges of, among other things, disorderly intoxication and petty theft, court records show. "We've been bailing him out since he was 16 years old. We won't do that anymore."
She won't throw her son out of the house either, she said: "I can't do that. I just can't do that."
Mrs. Atkins said she's worried that people who honestly have no homes will feel the repercussions of the charges.
"This has got to be stopped, because there really are people out there that are homeless and hungry," she said.