VIENNA, Va. - Residents in Fairfax County are concerned about an increased presence of panhandling across the area.
Despite growing frustration on community boards, police are reminding residents that panhandling is legal in the county.
For 52-year-old John Blevins, he is just one of several people along Leesburg Pike in Vienna fueling frustration on a Reddit thread showcasing Fairfax County residents fed up with an apparent increase in panhandlers.
Blevins said while he waits to hear back from potential employers, he is on the streets collecting donations. He has been at this for two weeks, six hours a day and has no plans to stop until he finds a job.
He said he makes around $40 to $50 a day.
“Sometimes a little more, but not much more than that,” said Blevins. “People tell you they will make more. They are full of it. So I am out here until I can find a job.”
As for people’s concern that panhandling is increasing in Fairfax County, Blevins said, “I think it is increasing because a lot of people just don’t have jobs or whatever. Maybe they are convicted felons or whatever. They have got various issues with them – either alcohol or drugs or whatever, and I think that is part of the problem that so many people are out here doing it.”
Blevins is hoping to open his own power wash and auto detailing business in the future. But for now, he’s a panhandler.
“You see the same people day after day,” he said. “They want to see some improvement. A nice haircut and shaven nicely.”
Hany Guirgus owns Mina Design Gallery across the street from the Spring Hill Metro station, which has been attracting panhandlers.
“Since we got the Metro, I notice a lot of people coming each corner,” said Guirgus. "I think they come from different areas, not from the local area here and each one has a corner. They spend the day and people are very generous and they pay for them, but it became a job.”
The business owner added, “They change every week. Another group comes and they stand on each corner and they use the back of our store as a sleeping area. Sometimes we see leftover drugs, some needles, cigarettes, trash. We feel sorry for them and we want them to survive like anybody else, but it is causing a problem.”
Fairfax County police said they received more than 2,000 calls last year related to panhandlers, which is up from the year before. However, Fairfax County police note that under the law:
- Asking for money is a protected act under the First Amendment
- Asking for money in public areas, including roadway medians, is not a violation of law
- The county monitors legal developments related to panhandling
Police encourage residents not to give money to panhandlers because giving money encourages more panhandling.
They also said Fairfax County has plenty of services and staff dedicated to helping those in need. However, Blevins said the programs offer little help.