Dec 4, 2012 8:24 PM by Zach Thaxton

Season of giving: think twice about giving to panhandlers

'Tis the season of giving, but police and homeless advocates are advising people not to give to panhandlers.  Panhandling has been banned in downtown Colorado Springs (though enforcement of that ordinance has yet to begin), but it remains legal elsewhere.  While many panhandlers are indeed homeless and in desperate need of money, many others are frauds, earning tax-free money with flexible hours and extremely little, if any, labor.  "Panhandling is a very good, flexible-hour, well-paying job," said Bob Holmes, Executive Director of Homeward Pikes Peak, an organization committed to eliminating homelessness in the Pikes Peak Region.  Holmes says some of the "best" fraudulent panhandlers are making up to $60 per hour.  At a normal 8-hours-per-day, 5-days-per-week, 52-weeks-per-year earning rate, that equates to $124,800 of tax-free earnings.

"An extreme example is a gentleman who was coming down from Denver on FREX to Monument," Holmes said.  "Somebody said, 'Why do you come down?'  He said, 'Well, there's nobody else here, number one. Number two, I make really good money.'"

Those who truly are homeless are likely feeding addictions, Holmes says.  "You are enabling a panhandler to continue his or her substance problem when you give them money.  That's it, straight up," Holmes said.

Not all panhandlers are asking for money, however.  A 50-year-old man identifying himself as "Brian" at Powers and Palmer Park in Colorado Springs holds a sign saying, "Good Guy.  Need Work.  Help Please.  References."  Instead of asking people to give him cash, he asks them to take his résumé instead.  "I just want to go to work," Brian said.  "That's it.  My self-esteem is tied in with my ability to get out and say, 'I'm going to work every day.  I GET to go to work every day.'"


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