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Safety training and permits proposed for panhandlers in Montgomery County. Here's how it would work

Previous efforts to stop panhandling have been derailed by concerns about homeless rights. One council member says permits are the solution.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Some communities have banned panhandling in traffic because residents complain it’s unsafe. But not in Montgomery County.

Now, one Montgomery County council member wants to try a different approach.

Councilmember Craig Rice said panhandlers should be required to get a free permit, which would include getting some safety training.

At the busy intersection of Frederick Road and Shady Grove in Montgomery County -- just outside the city of Gaithersburg -- panhandler Gene Posthumus said he thought the permit concept is a terrible idea.

"It's up to the driver if they want to read the sign, or give, or whatever," Postumus said. "I don't think it's unsafe for them at all."

Drivers disagreed.

"I just feel like people get distracted while they're driving," motorist Lisa Resnick said. "People are holding up the signs in the middle of the street, and yeah, it can be a safety issue."

Rice said at least two panhandlers have been killed in traffic since 2013 in the county.

Previous efforts to ban panhandling in the county have been derailed over concerns about homeless rights.

Rice proposes regulations instead.

“A person would have to get a permit that would ensure that they've gone through some safety instructions on how to keep themselves safe and keep themselves out of harm's way," Rice said to fellow council members this week.

The permits would be free and issued by agencies that help the homeless. Applicants would be provided safety information before receiving a permit.

The newly proposed bill does not provide for any penalties, but it would give police the authority to order panhandlers without permits, or in violation of a permit, to leave the area.

A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for May 11 at 1:30 p.m.

RELATED: Fairfax County discusses prohibiting 'curb to curb' panhandling

RELATED: Fairfax County discusses possible crackdown on curb-to-curb panhandling

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