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What's the best way to respond to panhandlers?

What's the best way to respond to panhandlers?

Sadly, we are all aware of the increase of homelessness in Southern California and the nation as a whole. The City of Lakewood is engaged with the County of Los Angeles and non-profit social service providers to deal with this vexing problem through comprehensive regional solutions.

Seemingly connected to the uptick in homelessness is the greater visibility of panhandling on streets and in grocery store parking lots throughout Southern California. Panhandlers can appeal to a person’s natural sympathy to help with a donation. But the City of Lakewood urges you to consider how you might direct your response to more systemic and comprehensive solutions.

Being generous is a good thing, but your generosity will go a longer way if it is directed to resources and organizations that can have a better impact on a person’s life.

Unfortunately, many experts and homeless advocates warn that giving money to panhandlers often just feeds drug or alcohol addictions or enables a panhandler to continue living in an unhealthy and unsafe state instead of seeking real help for their situation. Sadly, law enforcement and the media report that it’s also the case that some people pose as panhandlers to scam the public, even raising money for fake funerals, bogus charities or gasoline to get home. 

Every person needs to make their own judgment about whether to help in such cases, but many experts encourage people sincerely wanting to help to instead donate to reputable non-profit organizations that can ensure that donations are used effectively to help people in need.

Lakewood residents might consider donating to Project Shepherd, a longtime charitable effort run by the Rotary Club of Lakewood in conjunction with the City of Lakewood, which provides assistance to Lakewood residents in economic need. You can donate at www.lakewoodcity.org/ProjectShepherd.

Residents can help homeless persons in need in our region by donating to a well-known and well-respected organization--People Assisting The Homeless (or PATH)--which provides a full range of assistance to homeless people in Los Angeles County. You can donate to PATH at www.epath.org.