A Florida man became something of a local hero this week after teaching an aggressive local beggar a lesson in personal responsibility.
On his drive home Sunday, like most days of most weeks, Ryan Bray stopped at an intersection dominated by a group of homeless people, according to a local newspaper report. This time, when the beggar approached to ask for money, Bray instead offered him a job doing yard work for $15 an hour.
“He said, ‘Absolutely not, I’m not doing that,” Bray recalled. “I didn’t give him any money and rolled up my window and he kicked my tire.”
Fed up, Bray drove home and made a sign of his own. Then, he went back to the intersection and shadowed the beggar, holding up his handwritten message as the man tried to collect money.
“I offered him $15 an hour to do yard work for me and he refused,” read Bray’s sign. “If we as a community stop paying them, they will leave our neighborhood!” the sign said.
Ryan Bray wins the day
In an interview with the Bradenton Herald, Bray said he hadn’t planned to spend his Sunday trailing a homeless man. But he said he was done seeing members of the Bradenton community be harassed out of their hard-earned money.
“I care about our homeless veterans and such but these people yell profanities at you if don’t give them money,” he said. “We’re tired of it. None of us want them in our neighborhood. They get irate and curse at you if you don’t give them any money. One guy was yelling, ‘I’ll rape your mother and kill your wife.'”
Bray reported that his efforts paid off.
“I shut down his panhandling business for three hours,” he said. “He didn’t get a dime.”
Later, Bray posted about his experience on Facebook, prompting an outpouring of supportive comments by other frustrated residents.
“I’ve also given so-called homeless people food and they have thrown it back at me and said they’d rather have the money,” commented Michael Holland.
Debbie Hoff-Howard shared that a beggar refused groceries from someone and then “beat on my car window demanding I give him my Apple watch.”
Even Bradenton officials have warned against giving beggars money, urging them to refer those genuinely in need to social services. But police have been handcuffed in their ability to deal with the situation.
A national problem
According to the Herald, Bradenton was last year forced to revise its panhandling ordinances along with the rest of Manatee County based on an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The court found in 2017 that Miami’s panhandling ban unconstitutionally restricted beggars’ right to free speech.
In true American style, Bray invoked the same First Amendment right when the beggar complained to police “that another man was following him,” an incident report said. Officers agreed that both the beggar, who they said was a “known transient” named Terry Walker, and Bray could display their signs.
Bray said he plans to continue his campaign against the beggars, and that 10 other people have signed on to help him next time.
Still, the problem is bigger than Bradenton. Amid rising housing costs and slow wage growth, homeless populations have been on the rise in cities across the United States, and officials have struggled to respond. At least 10 cities on the West Coast have declared a state of emergency.