Nebraskans coming into Omaha to holiday shop may notice there is a big increase in the number of panhandlers standing along medians and on corners with signs asking for money. Candace Gregory is president and CEO of the Open Door Mission and says for many this is their “job”.
Gregory says, “There are eight shelters in our community of Omaha and Council Bluffs and all of us are working feverishly to provide opportunities for men, women and families to actually empower them to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Many that are on our street corners are not truly homeless. Many of the panhandlers in our communities are living in efficiency apartments with other men and they are feeding their addiction.”
Gregory encourages people to continue to offer bottles of water and a granola bar and also give them a compassion card. That provides information on how these individuals can get free food, free clothing and a warm bed. On the back side of the business card is information on how to get a ride to the Mission. Gregory says, “If you pass that to your panhandler and say would you like me to call the Mission for you and have them pick you up, 99% of the time they will say no.”
The increase in the number of panhandlers, according to Gregory, is that people in this community are generous. However she says we are costing ourselves by giving them money. She says often times those individuals end up in an emergency room or in jail which cost taxpayer dollars. Gregory says it is always better to give a hand up instead of a hand out and not enable someone in their addiction.