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Oklahoma City panhandlers aren't always homeless

Two homeless groups in Oklahoma City offers compassionate givers a way to really help.
By Carrie Coppernoll Published: September 1, 2010

For most of July and August, a woman with short blonde hair and sad eyes begged for change at an intersection by my house.

I saw her sitting or standing, sweating and holding a piece of cardboard at that intersection nearly every day on my way to and from work.

One morning I happened to be the first one in line at the light. She looked at me and waved a little bit. Blue polish dotted her fingernails. She's probably a little younger than I am — maybe in her early 20s. She appears nice and pretty clean. She obviously has a regular change of clothing.

Normally I look at panhandlers with compassion. I've been known to give money and food more than once. Sometimes I cry. Really.

But this girl is different.

She litters. She sits out in the median all day with a sign, smoking, snacking and sipping on sports drinks. Then she leaves the bottles and wrappers there when she departs in the evening.

She smiled at me. I rolled my window down.

Me: "Hey, do you sleep somewhere around here?"

Her: "Yeah. Under the bridge."

Me: "Do you need a place to crash until you get on your feet?"

Her: "No. That's OK."

Me: "You sure?"

Her: "Yeah. I'm saving up for an apartment."

Me: "Oh, you are? Good for you!"

Her: "Yeah. I only need five more dollars."

The light turned green. Thank goodness. I was able to hit the gas before calling her a liar. If she only needed $5 more, she shouldn't have bought that pack of cigarettes.

The Oklahoma City Council turned down the idea of a panhandling ordinance Tuesday. I liked the original idea. Panhandlers would have to stay out of the medians, and legitimate groups, like firefighters, could raise money for charity once a year. But once the exception for charities was scrapped, the ordinance went south.

I hope the issue comes up again.

I feel compassion for the poor and the disadvantaged. Ask any of my friends, and they'll tell you that I would adopt the world if I could. But I don't feel compassion for lying litterers. Maybe if panhandling is restricted a bit more, people like this girl will have to find other ways to get money. Like, say, a job picking up litter.

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