Differing methods in place to deal with panhandling issue in NH

Many panhandlers are not homeless, advocates say

MANCHESTER, N.H. —The problem of panhandling continues to plague parts of the Granite State, but there are some differing methods to help minimize the issue.

Barely a day goes by when we don’t see someone holding a sign on the side of road, begging for money.

Often, the people say they are homeless, but the homeless and their advocates say that’s not the case. Instead, they say that many of them are professionals looking to tug at your emotions.

One panhandler told News 9 he makes a day’s pay in a few hours, just by sitting on the street corner.

“Panhandlers really give homeless people a bad name,” said

Cathy Kuhn, the director of New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness, said that as of January 2013, there are a little more than 1,600 homeless people across the state. That number is growing as rental rates increase.

“As that gap widens between incomes and rents, people who are vulnerable are getting catapulted onto the streets,” said Kuhn.

Once on the streets, Kuhn said many people turn to her agency for help.

The agency offers transitional housing, emergency shelters and other services to get the homeless back on their feet and off the streets.

Kuhn told News 9 that when homeless people remain on the streets. It’s often their choice. She worries about the public’s misconception.

It can lead to this negative stereotype of homeless people,” said Kuhn.More often, Kuhn said the aggressive panhandlers who are homeless have addiction issues.Aggression is now one of the biggest problems.

In Concord, the police chief said over the last year, there has been a large increase in the number of complaints from citizens and businesses who said panhandlers were arguing and forceful as they begged for money.

As a result, last month, the city passed an ordinance banning motorists from passing anything out of their car to a person on the street.

For example, if you’re sitting at a red light and hand over some cash or food to a person holding a sign on the side of the road, that’s now illegal, and the sign holder can be fined up to $500.

The driver of the car is not accountable.

To be clear, holding the sign is not illegal because that’s the person’s free speech. It’s only when they are taking something from the car that becomes a safety hazard, city leaders said.

“It’s been more effective and it’s a work in progress. I have seen a difference,” said Chief John Duval of the Concord Police Department.

Duval said in the weeks since the ordinance took effect, panhandling has diminished, but it’s not completely gone.

News 9 caught up with a group of homeless men roaming the streets of Concord. The group said they are homeless by choice, adding that the ordinance takes away their income.

“Why are we getting bagged for doing, making a living? The Salvation Army comes down here and flies a pot. What’s the difference?,” said one homeless person.

Though there are a number of resources available, the men refuse to utilize them.

Instead, they take us through their former camp as they look for their next destination.

In Manchester, Alderman Patrick Long said there is a clear distinction between homeless and panhandlers.

Long supports adding meters where people can drop in as much change as they want. In other cities, the meters have helped reduced panhandling. All of proceeds will go to New Horizons Homeless Shelter and Soup Kitchen.

“The resources are there. For people giving money in the meter, it helps these nonprofits to enhance their services,” said Long.

This gives these nonprofits some much-needed funding, and it’s another step allowing Granite Staters to offer help without facing aggressive or unsafe solicitations.