Helping Panhandlers Doesn't Help Homeless 

Your article on panhandling ("Councilman Proposes Panhandling Permits," Street Talk, Oct. 3) raises some important concerns, but I would like to clarify a common misconception.

Councilman Bruce Tyler was quoted as saying, "We have to be compassionate of our homeless, but we have to be respectful of our residents."

The councilman, like many people, is assuming that panhandlers are homeless. This is not always the case. Many panhandlers are simply entrepreneurs, and they may not be homeless at all.

How can you know if the money you give a panhandler will help them? Will they really buy food or will they buy beer? Or drugs? The sad reality is you can't be sure when you give money directly to a panhandler.

How can you help homeless people truly in need? If you donate to local organizations such as the Daily Planet, you can be 100 percent sure that your money will be used to help address the problems of the homeless in our community. In 2006, Daily Planet served over 6,000 homeless clients with medical care, counseling and job-training services. We not only provide our clients with basic daily needs, like a shower and a change of clothes, we also address the underlying causes of homelessness.

The image people have of homelessness shouldn't be a panhandler. Our clients include a startling diversity of people -- single parents and their children, the elderly on small fixed incomes and veterans. These are or have been hard-working people who live paycheck to paycheck. It doesn't take much — an unexpected illness, job loss or large repair bill — for them to fall behind and lose their home.

Our philosophy is that everyone has the capacity to be self-sufficient given the right support and encouragement. The community's support is the key to our success. Supporting panhandlers will not help the homeless.

George Welch, board member
Daily Planet Board of Directors

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