Panhandling crackdown in Montgomery County

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) --{ } It’s midday on a Monday, and Brandon Hodges is out in Montgomery County working his second job.

"I mean, you can't make $7.25 and expect to survive," he said.

The 22-year-old Hodges explains that he cannot make ends meet by earning $200 a week working at McDonald's, and studies show a single person needs to make at least $33,000 a year to live without government assistance.

"It's not enough to pay my bills," he said. "I'm always behind, always behind, always behind."

Hodges is just one of an estimated 30 panhandlers soliciting across Montgomery County at any given time. And county leaders now want that statistic to drop to zero.

Starting on Monday, drivers who text the word “share” to 80077 will automatically donate $5 to non-profit organizations assisting the homeless – while also contributing to keeping roadways safer.

This initiative comes less than four months after a female panhandler was hit and killed by a van while begging along Georgia Avenue in Wheaton.

According to Captain Thomas Didone with the Montgomery County Police Department:

"if you pay them, they will stay. If you stop paying them, they will go. And we want to make sure we are a generous county and we give to people who are in need, but let's do it the right way."

Panhandlers have a first amendment right to beg for money as long as it's not aggressive. Therefore, county leaders urge the public to text donations to curb begging.

Montgomery County is reportedly the third most expensive county in the United States.