Panhandlers: Life on the Street, Part II

By: Jason Colthorp Email
By: Jason Colthorp Email

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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by JO Location: Location on Nov 2, 2012 at 12:58 PM
    Brett: Don't buy your story. Had to get divorce papers from over 30 years ago. Took less than 3 days. Getting Birth Certificate is easy. Getting Passport is a pain. Please stop telling us stories, We are not as dumb as you think. If you two wanted to work you would be. You would just rather rip off kind hearted people. It is easier, and no taxes.
  • by Name Location: Location on Nov 2, 2012 at 12:46 PM
    I give to help people in need. I don't consider Panhandlers to be in need. I don't think they are honest, and if they would put half the effort into finding work, getting ID etc, that they put into standing on street corners, ripping people off. They would be ok people. They are not lazy, they just would rather rip off working people.
  • by Sandi Location: Location on Nov 2, 2012 at 10:28 AM
    I am amazed that these homeless panhandlers, with no money, no ID, and no way of getting help, can afford, internet, a computer, have every excuse in the book, for not having a real job,and begging for a living. If they put half the energy they use being bums into being a half way decent citizen they could end up as rich as Romney. I do not drive a fancy car, do not eat a Burger King, as I can not afford it, and if I can support myself by working so can they.
  • by Steve Location: Lansing on Nov 1, 2012 at 12:45 PM
    ohhh, it must be very hard for you, sitting in warm car, eating Big Mac, and having to feel UNCOMFORTABLE about someone asking for some change. :) Jesus would have been much more inspiring if he had said " Give to those in need, but only after you verify their income and drug test them. " :)
  • by Brett Location: Lansing on Oct 31, 2012 at 10:51 PM
    Channel 10 failed to mention. While Amber was being interviewed, I was working. Even without an ID, I find plenty of odd jobs to pay the rent. That particular day I was raking and bagging leaves. There are plenty of lawns in Lansing which need raked to keep me busy until it snows. Then I will shovel snow.
  • by Brett Location: Lansing on Oct 31, 2012 at 10:32 PM
    I am Amber's boyfriend Brett. My issue with the Id is, I have driver's responsibility fees. I have to pay $750 to get my driver's license back. I asked the Secretary of State to just give me an identification card since I couldn't afford my license. They told me "An Identification Card is completely different from a Driver's License" and I would need 5 forms of ID. A picture ID, SSI card, birth certificate, and proof of address such as a bill. I have an expired license and SSI card, but need an ID to get a birth certificate. Also I have no bills in my name. If it were a matter of just paying $15 to get an ID, I would have done that. I am in the process of getting a birth certificate and should have an ID soon. I am only saying it takes time. I do get frustrated when I panhandle for hours and make nothing while on the other corner someone has a sign saying they are homeless with children or a veteran and I talk to them and they are not. I also get angry when I find food left to rot by people claiming to be hungry, or syringes on the ground by every panhandling spot.
  • by Name Location: Location on Oct 31, 2012 at 01:28 PM
    As to the comment that they needd an ID to get help. Why don't they use some of the money they panhandle to get the ID needed to get the help they say the need. Bet they won't do it, because they the powers that be would be able to pick some of them up on charges they are wanted for.
  • by Carmella Location: Lansing on Oct 31, 2012 at 05:23 AM
    Mayor Bernero requires the gal that stands at Washington Square (downtown) to have a permit to play her violin. Her case is open should people wish to donate, but she has no sign and does not ask for money. If she is required to have a permit, why doesn't Bernero require the panhandlers to have a permit?? Mr. Mayor - can you clarify your position on this???
  • by rwill on Oct 30, 2012 at 03:31 PM
    @Clare As for why, I think you missed this line: "If you had all that you could just go apply for a job."
  • by Sans Location: Location on Oct 30, 2012 at 01:10 PM
    I work full time and make less than $200 a day, a lot less, I have never asked anyone for anything, and there have been times when I couldn't afford a loaf of bread. I do not feel sorry for these people, and think anyone stupid enough to give them anything is an idiot. They are theives and liars. I am all for helping someone in need but theses people are not in need.
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