Thursday, February 9, 2017

Roanoke Panhandling

A lot of people in city limits of Roanoke have noticed an increase in panhandling within the last year and for good reason. The city does not have a viable law that prohibits the issue and police do not enforce the issue like other regional cites such as Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Lynchburg. 

Panhandling is a challenging issue faced by cities of all sizes, and one that affects Memphis as well. The experience of numerous professionals and service agencies finds that money given to panhandlers often only enables self-destructive behaviors like alcoholism and drug addiction. One former panhandler and addict I met has even stated, "Giving money to a panhandler is like giving a gun to someone who is suicidal."

We recommend not giving money to panhandlers. A better way to help is to donate to charities and organizations with outreach programs that truly help the homeless and needy.

The biggest misconception about panhandlers is that they are homeless. In fact, the vast majority of panhandlers are NOT homeless, and the vast majority that are homeless do NOT panhandle. Generally speaking, panhandlers are strangers that approach you on the street to hustle you for money, which will most likely be used to buy drugs or alcohol. not always, but often.

It is important to note that street vendors, outdoor performers and other people providing a legitimate service with a valid permit are not panhandlers. 

According to studies, giving money to panhandlers does not help those in need because:

Cash given to panhandlers will most likely be used to buy alcohol or drugs.
Most panhandlers are NOT homeless. Yes, there are some that are and some that are in real need, but for those that scam by pretending to be in need, sadly, it creates issues.

For some, panhandling is a profession and at times, studies show, a lucrative one. One lady that frequents many areas of Roanoke has a nice red car, lives in a townhome, has an iPhone and a Facebook page and yet she stands on several corners on 460, Tangelwood and Valley View asking for YOUR money to pay for her lifestyle. 

Homelessness is not the problem for truly needy panhandlers, but rather a symptom of underlying problems. They need help, not handouts.

What you should do if asked for money?
The best response is to politely say "no" and walk away. If a panhandler becomes aggressive or if you feel threatened, contact the police department here in the city.

What you can do ...
To help the homeless in our community ...

Donate your money to legitimate organizations dedicated to helping the homeless.
Volunteer your time to organizations and service agencies addressing this issue.
Become more knowledgeable about panhandling and homelessness by visiting local service agencies to learn of other ways you can help.

Join the Facebook group Stop Roanoke Panhandling and help identify those looking to get your hard earned money.  


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