Cash handout may not be smartest way to help out panhandlers
While you may think you’ve come face-to-face with homelessness when a panhandler approaches your car at a stoplight, it’s likely not the case.
Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, was among those attending a meeting last week called by Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer to discuss panhandling and public safety.
In an interview with The Oklahoman, Straughan said most panhandlers are not really homeless, but are panhandling for cash, often to support unhealthy behaviors.
Watch, he said, what happens if you pull through a drive-thru, buy a couple of burgers and give them to a panhandler. It’s not unusual, he said, for the burgers to get tossed when the kind stranger pulls away.
There are smarter, healthier ways to support those who are truly homeless than giving money to people on street corners, Straughan said. Always good: give money to church, he said; many congregations support efforts to help the homeless. Other choices include:
• “Real Change” vouchers, which include information on community resources available to the homeless, with a bus pass. At www.homelessalliance.org, click on the link on the left, and print out vouchers to carry in the car. “If it’s a person who is genuinely in need of help, with the voucher you’ve given them access to get their needs met,” Straughan said. “If it’s otherwise, you have not contributed to their ongoing self-destruction.”
• “Compassion Cards,” which include a telephone number to arrange a free ride to the City Rescue Mission. At www.cityrescue.org, click on the Compassion Card and bring copies to carry in the car. Straughan said the City Rescue Mission provides meals and a place to sleep — “two hots and a cot” — and more, including a medical clinic, job training and placement, and housing assistance.
• Buy a copy of Curbside Chronicle, Oklahoma’s street magazine. Publishers recruit panhandlers to sell the magazine; Straughan said every panhandler who has worked consistently with Curbside Chronicle over its first year has earned enough to get into housing, and many have found more conventional employment.
• Support the 100 government, nonprofit and faith-based agencies that are working with the homeless in Oklahoma City.
People panhandle because it works, Straughan said.
“The reason it works is because people are generous and want to help,” he said. “There’s healthy ways to help. Giving cash to a panhandler is not one of them.”
Worth considering: USA Today reported last month that the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty surveyed 187 U.S. cities and found that more are banning activities, such as loitering and panhandling, that frequently are associated with homelessness. Not so in the Oklahoma City metro area, where communities work closely with agencies such as the Homeless Alliance that are addressing the consequences of poverty, Straughan said.
Council to vote on Tinker
economic development project
The Oklahoma City Council will be asked Tuesday to commit $23.5 million toward acquisition of a former Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway yard that is part of the development of an aerospace complex to support maintenance and repair of KC-46A air tankers at Tinker Air Force Base. The complex eventually is expected to support about 1,300 jobs with an average salary of $62,000. The depot will maintain at least 179 modified Boeing 767 aircraft in the KC-46A refueling fleet, according to a memo from Jim Couch, the city manager. The projected economic impact is nearly $1 billion over the first 10 years. The Air Force, Oklahoma County and Oklahoma City are partnering on the $44 million needed to acquire the rail yard, adjacent to the former General Motors auto assembly plant.
Tweet of the week
“We’re just chillin Like Bob Dylan”
@hefner_goats, the new account of the Hefner Canal goats. The account had posted 41 tweets and had 62 followers by Friday.
They said it
“I remain concerned about the dark powers that this satanic worship invites into our community and the spiritual danger that this poses to all who are involved in it, directly or indirectly.”
— Archbishop Paul Coakley, after a satanist turned over a communion wafer that he said had been consecrated by a priest. Adam Daniels had planned to use the wafer in a “black mass” Sept. 21 at Civic Center Music Hall, but relinquished it after Coakley filed a lawsuit seeking its restoration to the Catholic Church.
The city council did not meet last week.
The city council meets at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 200 N Walker Ave. The council is expected to conduct public hearings on proposed water rate increases and regulations for app-based ride services such as Uber and Lyft, and to discuss a construction contract for the $48.5 million MAPS 3 whitewater park.
From the community survey
In Oklahoma City’s latest survey of residents, 23.6 percent of those who responded said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the flow of traffic and the ease of getting around town. Another 29.7 percent were neutral on the question, and 1.5 percent said they didn’t know.
William Crum, Staff Writer