Panhandler 101


Recently, there has been an increase in panhandling at the major intersections in the Garden Tract and Parkview neighborhoods. There are transients standing on the corners with signs that say “Need help,” “I’m hungry,” and “Need gas.” They can usually be found at high traffic areas where a line of cars form at a red light. They walk up and down the sidewalk looking into your car and hoping you will give them a few bucks. Many people feel sorry for them and give them money. This is the wrong thing to do.

The majority of panhandlers in our area have drug and alcohol addictions and rely on these donations to feed their habit. The rescue mission is right down the street and these same people get fed there every day. The mission will not provide them with alcohol or illegal substances so they panhandle in between meals. People who give transients cash are actually preventing them from getting food and needed services as the mission will not let them in if they are intoxicated.

If you want to help these people, there is a better way to do it. You can go to the mission and purchase coupons for a free meal and hand them out, you can go buy them a burger or groceries and hand them out, and if they need gas, have them meet you at a nearby gas station and let them put a few bucks in. I have done all of these and only had one taker for fuel. I felt better knowing that I wasn’t fueling their addictions.

Here’s something else:

There was a unshaven man dressed in shabby clothes in the Churn Creek Post Office parking lot for months. He would walk around asking for money so he could feed his family. At around noon, he would walk up the street, get in his SUV, and go to his home on the east side of town. I met up with him one day and asked him why he did that. He said he made up to $300 for a half-day’s work Monday through Friday.

Hope this information is helpful to those of you who are wondering what these people are up to. It’s great to want to help someone out, just don’t do it with cash. If you still want to give a cash donation, consider a local charity that helps the homeless.

Ed Ochoa is the Neighborhood Watch Coordinator with the Redding Police Department.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

    While I agree with most of the information presented in this article, I take exception to the premise that drug addicts (who happen to live on the streets) and the "homeless" are in any way synonymous.

    A growing number of the homeless are families (primarily women and children) whose reasons for being in that situation are almost entirely economic in origin.

    Donating to local organizations that can prove they are directing a substantial portion of the donations they receive to help this extremely vulnerable group of people is certainly worthwhile, although those organizations are few and far between.

    Mercy Foundation North, Northern Valley Catholic Social Services, and Redding Loaves and Fishes (which has no paid staff) are all good choices in my opinion.

    Another effective option would be to prevail upon local churches and civic groups to "adopt" at least one homeless family or individual. What a difference that could make in the lives of these people. I've tried suggesting this idea in various places without much success, but perhaps others in the community would have better luck.

  2. Avatar Ed Nowlin says:

    I have to agree with Ofc. Ochoa with one exception. I have it on good authority that if mission staff see you "flying a sign" anywhere in Redding, this earns you a ban from the mission, and considering my source is someone whom has had to stay at the mission, I tend to take it at face value. I do believe the ban just prevents you from staying overnight there, and does not apply to any services they provide.

    But yes folks, don't give these people money, all you do is encourage them to continue their behavior. I work in private security and I deal with people panhandling on a regular basis on property I am assigned to patrol. They may act friendly to you if you have money, but the second that I show up and tell them they have to leave or that your not going to give them money, they get all mad and call you hateful names. It is quite similar to a child throwing a temper tantrum when they aren't getting their way and if you think about it, that is pretty much what they are doing because they have been conditioned into believing that they don't have to support themselves, that either you, me or the government will come and bail them out.

    And yes, quite a few are fakers. I remember seeing two young ladies drive into the K-Mart parking lot a few years back in a Lexus, getting out wearing headscarves and peasant skirts, popping the trunk, getting their signs and backpacks out of the trunk and walking down to the center divider by Black Bear diner where all the panhandlers beg.

    That also torques me off as I work 40+ hours a week, and I literally live paycheck to paycheck. I've always said a good solution would be for the IRS to send field agents out to where the panhandlers are and collect taxes on each and every transaction that is made: "Oh, they gave you a dollar…well, I'll take that and you get 70 cents back"

  3. Avatar Herny Cuenca says:

    interesting article, have employed some tactics noted such as buying food. The story on Churn Creek Post office man blew me away. I generally develop a "feel" for individuals so i develop a sense of how to handle situations.
    Thank you.

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I'll never forget the time Jim Anderson came racing out of the downtown mall as I was I was handing a guy the quarter he had asked for. Jim said…"Don't give him that money….you aren't helping this man…you're helping to turn him into a beggar." I was shocked at the time, but I've realized since that the quarter I was giving him wouldn't have gone into a savings account to rent a room…..wouldn't have gone to a meal…..wouldn't have gone to a phone call asking for help from family and friends…
    Give food or a job offer to people who are asking for help. Remember to include a can opener if you're offering canned food. Information about the wonderful local agencies would be a real help. And when you see people with kids by their side asking for food, call CPS. Those kids should be in school.