Thursday, July 16, 2009

Who Are These Guys

These are some pretty well organized panhandlers. They fan out over all four points of the intersection of Dobbin Road and the Rouse Parkway in Columbia on a regular basis with their reflective vests and plastic pails. It appears that they are affiliated with some religious group but I wasn’t clear who they actually represent

Yesterday I donated fifty cents to find out.

“We are Deeper Life Christian Church and we are helping the poor,” I was told by a gentleman wearing a Ravens baseball cap.

“I’ve never heard of your church. Are you located around here?”

“Our nearest church is in Roanoke, Virginia.”

That set off some alarm bells in my head but by then the light turned green. He handed me a small slip of paper with the church name and website on it.

It turns out that the church is actually located in Tampa and has been the subject of some investigative reporting by the Tampa Tribune. They operate much like a cult.

"Yet while their followers live in poverty and beg for donations from those who would “help feed needy women and children,” the Jeffersons live in a 10,000-square-foot home in Brandon. Bishop Jefferson drives a Bentley Arnage, worth as much as $150,000. The couple wear tailor-made clothing and travel in a private jet.

Moreover, records show the bishop has bought a substantial amount of land for the church, spending $2 million on properties in Hillsborough County since 1992. Yet the church has a history of leaving debts unpaid."

Now I’m sorry I gave them fifty cents.


Hjalti said...

Doesn't HoCo have a panhandling law? If not, why not? FredCo has one.

Anonymous said...

Panhandling laws are almost universally unconstitutional. Unfortunately, respect for the First Amendment requires respect for people you don't like exercising those First Amendment rights.

Dick said...

Wow. I've always wondered about these people. Thanks for doing the investigative footwork on that.

John G. Boyle said...


Thanks for investigating.

Cliff said...

Always wondered what their angle was. That's sad. People should start handing these folks anti-cult literature.

Anonymous said...

Don't they know that the county will give them a $10 million bond issue if they want it?

Anonymous said...

I saw the police talking to them on at least two of the four corners when I was driving through that intersection on Wednesday afternoon. Wonder if they'll be back...

Bob O said...

And what happens if you knock one of them down, while obeying all traffic laws and just going about your daily business?

Oh, guess who's fault it will be.

Good reporting, WB.