The Omaha City Council is being asked to put new regulations in place regarding panhandling. The new ordinance proposed would prohibit panhandlers from asking for money near ATMs or from people in cars at a traffic light. Open Door Mission President and CEO Candace Gregory says only a small percentage of those asking for money are actually in desperate need and living on the streets.
Gregory says, “A large percent of our panhandlers, I know several of them that made $30,000 and $40,000 last year because of the generosity of the community. They are not paying taxes. They are living in crack alley. Many of them are living in several apartments together and they are drinking and using drugs continuously. That is what we are giving our money to.”
Gregory says a better approach would be to hand them a compassion card supplied by the Open Door Mission. She says it is a business card that lists the services available and a number to call for help. She says the mission gladly will pick up someone in need and provide them with a hot meal, clothing and services needed to get back on their feet. She says communities that have used compassion cards have seen a decrease in the number of panhandlers as they move on to other locations when they know they won’t be getting anymore handouts.
Gregory says giving handouts will not empower people to change, address their mental health issues or addiction. She says it only encourages a person to remain stuck in that lifestyle.