City of Branson posts signs to discourage giving to panhandlers

Branson, Mo. -- Police in Branson are asking people not to give to panhandlers.

The City of Branson now has signs posted that aim to discourage drivers from donating to people standing along the street.

The signs are posted along busy streets like Highway 76 and Branson Hills Parkway. They say "Don’t support panhandling, help more by giving to a local charity."

"It basically says give to local charities instead of panhandlers," Branson Police Chief Jeff Matthews said.

Latosha Goss says she doesn't appreciate the new signs. She has been homeless for about two years.

"It kind of puts us down because we are trying to survive out here," Goss said. "Sometimes we make a dollar, sometimes we make $20. It depends on the day. Today, since it's raining, we ain't going to make nothing."

Still, police say the signs are to protect people by keeping panhandlers out of the road.

"With 9 million visitors coming through this city annually, they're looking at way finding signs. They're looking at the attractions, they're looking at the billboards," Chief Matthews explains.

Goss admits that getting a gift sometimes means stepping into the street.

"They don't want to drive around and park in a parking spot just to give you the money," Goss said.

Chief Matthews says the city can't legally ban panhandling.

"We can't regulate the behavior outside of the traffic concern and the safety concern," Chief Matthews said.

While Chief Matthews says officers can issue tickets for people getting in the road, he is hoping the signs' message will help people help those in need safely through one of the many local charities.

"Most people that come to town have a big heart and want to help out," Chief Matthews said.

However, Goss says, that's not enough.

"What we need here is more shelters and resources for the homeless," Goss said.

The signs have been posted for about two months. The chief says, so far, the city hasn't seen a change in the number panhandlers.