Enabling panhandlers by giving them cash is not the answer
■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
The community of Hemet is frustrated with the increase in homelessness. There are many struggling organizations in the city that provide permanent solutions. What if the money that is given to panhandlers went to these organizations instead?
What if the community felt empowered to be a part of the solution instead of helpless and frustrated by the problem?
Hemet’s Mayor Pro Tem Karlee Meyer has initiated “Responsible Giving,” a campaign aimed at redirecting money from panhandlers to homeless outreach organizations that are successful in moving people permanently off the streets.
How did it all start?
Two years ago, Meyer began working and understanding exactly what is happening on our streets—listening to transients and seeing who accepts help.
“We need a solution,” said Meyer.
Meyer estimates that $3 million is given annually in Hemet alone to panhandlers. If that money were redirected to successful organizations, the community could assist in funding a solution.
Think about it…
A panhandler in Hemet receives approximately $150 per day, according to the campaign. If there were only 50 panhandlers receiving that amount of money, it would total $7,500 per day or a staggering $2.7 million per year.
The community could contribute almost $3 million to the organizations doing the day-to-day work getting people permanently off the streets.
Meyer says that redirecting this money will have the effect of pushing the people resistant to help toward reaching out for solutions and stability instead of staying on the streets.
Having served with Project Hope II, I learned early on that giving to panhandlers only enables them and doesn’t help push them to move off the streets.
We all want long-term solutions, not quick fixes.”
There are many reasons people can end up on the streets. Everyone has a personal story that led them to the very moment that the streets became their home whether it was physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, aging out of foster care, addiction, mental health or simply economics.
“We all want long-term solutions, not quick fixes,” says a statement on the campaign video.
Councilwoman Linda Krupa has been learning quite a bit about homelessness and has stated in a recent city council meeting, “The homeless situation—with all the things that extend from that—housing, rehabilitating the people being released from prison, the mental illness aspect, the teenagers that are aging out of foster care and we really start thinking about a real social dilemma and the problem on our hands. Unfortunately, this state isn’t willing to do anything except kick the can down the road, so we are going to have to solve the issues on a local level.”
Krupa sits on Hemet’s Homeless Task Force with councilwoman and task force chair Bonnie Wright. The task force is responsible for the $20,000 feasibility study conducted by Paul Webster of Solutions for Change in Vista. The feasibility study is looking at the best path to a long-term solution. So what can be done in the meantime?
This is where Meyer’s campaign comes into play.
The following organizations are already listed on the website, and Meyer has more to add: California Family Life Center, Center Against Sexual Assault (C.A.S.A.), Community Pantry, Liberty Ranch, My City Youth Center, NAMI Mt. San Jacinto, Project Hope II, Salvation Army, Valley Restart Shelter.
Want to help? Visit KnowWhereItGoes.com to give to local agencies that provide permanent solutions to those in need.