Panhandlers: Life on the Street, Part II

They're older. Younger. Men and women. Black and white. Some saying they're homeless, veterans, pregnant.

The panhandlers who occupy many of the street corners you stop at everyday, haven't been deterred by a News 10 investigation in May that uncovered--- discrepancies.

Many were not homeless, or even from around here. And at least one admittedly buying a big screen TV with the donations he got from drivers.

So again, we watched them, followed them and talked to them to see if what they're signs said was true.

One man-- at the corner of Larch and Oakland-- claiming to be homeless wouldn't talk to us.

I caught another man behind Frandor making his sign. He told me off camera he'd recently been laid off.

As another man at Edgewood and I-96 was telling me how he's struggling to support a wife and child, we were interrupted by two people happy to tell him to pull himself up by his own bootstraps.

"I've had nowhere to sleep at night. I've had to sleep in people's cars. I didn't even have a car at one point. I've had to work for everything i had," said the young woman, visibly upset by the panhandler nearby. "I didn't ask for any handouts, you know what I did? I sucked it up, got my *expletive* together and I did better."

Jason Alexander, who says he's supporting a wife and child as best he can, responded. "I don't see that I'm asking for money because I'm not stopping traffic."

They questioned whether he could work and when he said yes, the young woman known only as Patti offered him $20 dollars to do some yardwork. Alexander agreed.

A woman at Pennsylvania and I-496 wasn't happy to see me, saying we lied in our reports. I asked if she was homeless.
"No, I have a home, we just don't make enough. Just trying to keep the rent up."

Amber, works different parts of town and with her boyfriend drives to corners from their south Lansing apartment.

"Some days I come out here for hours and make five bucks, two bucks, nothing," she told me. "Other days I do alright and I don't have to come out here for awhile."

The growing trend of panhandlers has not gone unnoticed at City Hall. But Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero believes giving money at the corner is not real help.

"It's not callous or cavalier to say to that person, 'There's help available. I give to the food bank. I give to the VOA. It's right down there. Take a walk down there. There's help available. There's shelter available. There's counseling available.'"

Amber says she goes to the VOA and the Food Bank like the mayor suggests, but her boyfriend can't afford an ID which is required.

Two twenty-something men at Saginaw/Grand River exit off U.S. 127 holding signs also say the ID requirement hurts the process.

"I could understand if they just needed your driver's license or a picture id, but the fact that they need all this other information-- i mean, obviously you wouldn't be in that position if you had all that." said Matt Stiern. "If you had all that you could just go apply for a job."

But that information is for a new database to help the city do more than just get people through the day.

"We don't want to just give them a few bucks for this meal or put them up in a hotel for a few days this week, we want to help them towards stability," said Bernero.

Stiern told me he and his friend would end up camping out in the woods if they didn't get enough money for a room.

"The good majority of people who do this are just looking for help from other people because everybody else has turned their backs on them."


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