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.