TULSA - A dozen signs addressing panhandling in the Brady Arts District and a new fence at the corners of two downtown intersections are drawing controversy.
Two weeks ago, Brady District building and parking lot owner David Sharp says he purchased a dozen signs reading "Please Do Not Pay The Panhandlers" and placed them at buildings he owns in the popular arts district.
At the same time, Sharp also erected a new fence along a parking lot running parallel to West Archer Street, with fences also on North Boulder Avenue and Main Street around a public park strip.
Sharp says the signs and fence are meant to address "extremely aggressive panhandling" that has become an issue in the district.
He says one man seriously injured one of his associates recently and shared a story of a woman who was intimidated into giving a panhandler money, when he spoke with 2NEWS at his office.
Sharp says he doesn't know if what he is doing is the right thing to do but also says he has 40 to 60 people working in the businesses paying him rent that he must protect.
He also said, "If the city would become more active and try to help, it would be appreciated."
The City of Tulsa issued this statement in response to Sharp's comments:
“The Downtown Coordinating Council is aware of concerns from downtown business owners and residents, and in coordination with the Tulsa Police Department and three downtown public safety ambassadors, the City of Tulsa will continue to meet with downtown stakeholders to address any concerns and uphold the city ordinance.”
According to the City of Tulsa, the owner of the fence must take down the strips running along North Boulder Avenue and Main Street but can keep the fence running along a parking lot facing West Archer Street. That fence, according to Dwain Midget, director of community and economic development with the City of Tulsa, is on private property.
If the other strips of fence aren't removed, Midget says the city will do that, calling it a code violation.
The signs and fence have some members of Tulsa's homeless community speaking out, including Kevin Wright, who frequents this park strip. He says the area is quiet and he can sit there with friends, talk sports and mind his own business.
"I think it de-humanizes people. I think it's kind of cruel and mean because they assume that the homeless people hang out over here," he said.
A member of the business association in the Brady Arts District said the association had no comment other than to say that some people have been hurt by panhandlers and they, too, don't know yet if this is the right approach.
An employee of Caz's Chowhouse told 2NEWS that aggressiveness among panhandlers has become an issue in the district.