The Placer County Sheriff’s Department is expanding an anti-panhandling program to retail centers in North Auburn. They are encouraging merchants to hand out cards that list homeless services rather than money. They also want people to donate to homeless service agencies where their money might do more good.
Deputy Kevin Griffiths and non-profits say no one should need to panhandle for food, shelter or medical care in Placer County. He says many panhandlers come from other areas because Auburn residents are generous and are soft touch for money requests. Non-profit homeless agencies also say the money that is given to panhandlers is more often used for drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Griffiths says he’s been told by panhandlers that they can collect as much as $30 in half an hour.
“That’s $60 and hour…that’s more than what make,” said Griffiths.
Erick Pace, who is homeless and frequents the retail centers, disagrees.
“No, no, no, no…we don’t make that kind of money,” said Pace.
He says he asks for work and food first, but will accept donations.
“It’s a donation. Whatever i do with that is up to me,” said Pace.
He admits that he periodically uses the money to buy alcohol although he says he’s not a drug user.Pace also said government entities have no right to tell people how they spend their money or who they can donate money to.
Pace has received one of the cards, but says he’s been turned down by many of the non-profits whose phone numbers are listed on the card. He also says the services are often not convenient to use and that he needs cash to utilize transportation to get services. Non-profit groups say they do provide transportation to clients.
Peggy Seitzinger is general manager of Roper’s Jewelers. She says not all homeless people are panhandlers, but that her high-end customers can be reluctant to buy expensive jewelry and leave the store with panhandlers lurking about. She says that fewer sales hurts the tax base and the entire community.
“All of that contributes to all of the services we all depend on,” said Seitzinger.
The cards will be distributed to businesses and their customers and the hope is that professional panhandlers will go elsewhere if they find that Auburn is no longer a lucrative area to work.