Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How Panhandling Effects Roanoke Business

Two panhandlers in the same intersection in Roanoke, VA
Panhandling has an effect within our community, from the drivers to the actual people that are really in need. But did you know that is also effects tourism, area visitors that come into Roanoke for business and even the businesses themselves? Well, it does and today I'd like to share with you some actual examples of how the issue has effected some local area companies here in the Roanoke Valley as well as some citizens and how they are feeling less safe within the community.

Local Business

While many businesses tend to thrive here in the valley, some are experiencing whats known as "eye-sore" issues causing them to lose business because of panhandlers. Most people will either ignore them or they will give something but it's those that ignore them that actually hurt a business. That curb appeal often times makes a business look less friendly, especially if there are aggressive panhandlers in the area that frequent the medians and sidewalks.

By standing near area companies on the sidewalks and streets it makes area business have less curb appeal and people tend to stay away from areas where people are begging them for cash. From a physiological standpoint most people would rather travel through a detour than to go through an area where known panhandlers tend to stand. Choosing a detour rather than a direct route effects those businesses that otherwise would be able to offer goods and services.

Less traffic means less revenue for these companies and that hurts them greatly.

Citizens Safety Issues

Panhandling comes in much more than standing too, we are seeing people walking up to those at gas stations, though parking lots here in our area asking for cash. Some are even panhandling late in the evening which is a danger in itself.

Here are what some local Roanoker's have been saying about it:

I was on the way home from Salem last night...actually it was about 12:20 AM so I guess it was this morning. It was raining really hard right then and it was very dark on the road even with my headlights and the streetlights. Stopped for the light at Melrose and Peterscreek and there's this guy running across the road from corner to corner getting into position to meet approaching vehicles to beg for a handout. Very dangerous situation as he could barely be seen!
Recently while waiting in line to order lunch at McDonald's across from the Berglund Center, I was approached by an older, small built black lady and wanted to know if I could step aside so she could ask me a question, to which I agreed. She then proceeded to say that the Lord told her to ask me if I might be able to give her $57 to help pay her electric bill that is going to be cut off.
Very gently, I said to her that I don't carry cash on me and that there are quite a few organizations around town that would be glad to help her. She had a multitude of excuses why that just wasn't the answer to her situation. Once I said that I didn't carry cash on me, she said, "there's an ATM at the Post Office where you can get the money for me". At this point, I told her that was not going to happen and I got back in line and ignored her.
Here's the kicker...when she realized I wasn't going to give her money, she tapped me on the arm and wanted to know if I would buy her lunch since I wasn't going to help her with her "electric bill"! I looked her square in the face and told her that I'm sorry, but I can't help you. I have no problem helping someone who needs help, but when it's that brazen and obviously rehearsed, it's not going to happen!! Lakeside Kroger...i had my infant and he tried his best to get money but i never carry cash...he told me this story of him being a priest and his wife was waiting in the car and the[y] had ran out...he ended up trying to force himself in my car and a kroger manager came out to my rescue...BE CAUTIOUS
 What you are reading is just a handful of hundreds of posts and messages that we've received in the last few weeks. Panhandling doesn't come in the form of those standing there, aggressive panhandling has become apparently a bigger issues with people walking right up with or without signs demanding money and often times speaking with some sort of story line in order for you to try and help them. 

My advice: DON'T Give them Cash!

Instead, if you feel threatened by an aggressive panhandler asking for money, call the Roanoke Police by dialing 911. Also, try and take a picture of the person if you can in case they flea the area. Be sure to take photos of them getting into any cars along with license plate numbers or write plates down to report.

If you need to report a panhandler you should call the non-emergency line at the following numbers: 

Roanoke County Police: (540) 562-3265
Roanoke City Police: (540) 853-2212

Tell them you need to report a panhandler that is impeding traffic and that it's a safety issue. 

Panhandlers that hang near companies and offices tend to get less traffic and that hurts their bottom line. Here's a great example. 

There is a business off Franklin Rd. that literally has to run panhandlers off just about everyday. Panhandlers have become such an issue near the business that they [owners] have to call the police a couple times a day and when the panhandlers run off they usually come right back a couple hours later. Other times they can be found in the back of the building woods trying to make fires or simply loiter the parking lot. 

Who in their right mind wants to go to s store only to be asked if they would give them some cash? 

Think about this for a moment. What if you had a panhandler right outside your driveway. Each day as you left the house or apartment, that person would be holding a sign asking for money. Each time you leave. Each time you come back. Day after day, week after week. 

Would you want something done about it? Would ignoring the issue make them go away? 

Would giving them cash get ride of them??

Well, most normal people would have an issue with that, panhandling in their neighborhoods or driveways. That's what businesses tend to deal with on a regular basis in Roanoke. 

If you give them money, the ONLY thing you are doing is enabling them by coming back and because you gave them cash, they'll return. 

What Companies Can Do

Yes, there are a few things companies can do in order to help manage their panhandling issues right outside their place of business. 

First, communicate with the police and ask them to patrol your area of the city more often. If you are in a panhandling "hot-spot" then work with the authorize and report panhandlers to them on a regular basis. 

Additionally, we recommend that you post signage stating no unauthorized loitering or soliciting. Again, this helps protect your business and it shows the panhandlers that you'll take legal action should they be standing on the business property. 

You can also take their images on a regular and post them on the local Panhandler Facebook Group.  There are other business owners just like you in the group as well as a lot of citizens too. They can help identify who these panhandlers are, if they frequent other parts of the city and they should be able to help keep an alert out for these people too.



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