BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Ryan Bray said it was time to take a stand. He felt bullied and harassed nearly every day as he drove past one particular corner near his home in Bradenton.
The busy intersection at 75th Street West and Manatee Avenue West always posed a big problem for Ryan and others, he told 8 on your Side.
It happened over and over again: People would approach the stoplight, he says, and the bullying would begin.
Homeless men and women can be seen each day, standing at the corner and holding signs, often approaching cars in an aggressive way.
“They threaten violence,” he told us. “I could tell you what they said to me. The Bradenton Police Department heard it. ‘Kill my mother, rape my wife!’ And, that’s the politest things they said.”
Ryan says it happened again on Sunday when a homeless man he had seen many times before walked over to his car.
At that moment, the Bradenton business owner said he had an idea. He wanted to help the guy, so he rolled down his window, telling him, “I’ll pay you $15 an hour to do yard work.”
Ryan says he had hoped that this homeless man, who seemed down on his luck, would say yes to a job offer. Not only did the guy say no, Ryan maintains, but the man was also seemingly indignant about the opportunity.
“They want money, they don’t want jobs. they don’t want to work,” Ryan said with a sigh. “They don’t want food. You can give them food. They don’t take it.”
This husband and father of a teenage girl was shocked by what he heard and saw, describing the man as visibly irritated. As Ryan rolled up his window, he says the homeless man kicked his tire. That’s when the Bradenton man said enough is enough.
“This is our town,” he said. “We pay taxes here.” He drove home and made a sign of a his own. It read, “I offered him $15 an hour to do yard work for me and he refused. If we as a community stop paying them, they will leave our neighborhood.”
Ryan maintains that he spent three hours on Sunday standing side by side with the homeless man, hoping to briefly stop the guy’s panhandling by “telling the truth.” He explained that he wanted fellow drivers and citizens to see the real story, written on his sign. “It’s got to stop,” he said.
As for the homeless man, 8 on your Side approached him, asking about the incident on Sunday. We were met with obscenities and anger, telling us in part, “Get your f—–g camera out of my face, you b—h. This is not against the law. It’s not against the law. Ask any police you want to ask.”
City council member, Gene Brown, told 8 on your Side that city leaders feel as though their hands are tied. He says a city ordinance prohibits banning panhandling, after a court ruling in Miami where it was determined that, in doing so, would be a violation of free speech.
“We want it stopped as bad as the next person. If somebody needs help, there’s help. We’ve got to get people to stop giving them money. We’ve talked about this quite a bit. We offer them food, a job, they don’t want it,” said Brown.
As for Ryan, he says the battle is far from over as far as he’s concerned. He plans to bring it up at a city council meeting on July 24.