Wichita police are requesting that people present the gift of resources instead of cash to panhandlers.
During a news briefing on Thursday, Officer Paul Cruz said police hope to raise awareness about the realities of panhandling in the community and that giving individuals cash isn’t necessarily the best thing a generous person can do.
“The reality is that giving funds is adding to the problem,” Cruz said. “We want our community members to help and be part of the solution with us, but we’d ask that people re-route those funds to organizations that can help.”
The reality is that giving funds is adding to the problem.
Paul Cruz, Wichita Police Department officer
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Cruz said that some of the people who panhandle on Wichita’s streets – he mentioned downtown and some east-side areas where panhandling is common – are not homeless and instead use the money they receive to support certain “habits.”
What the department suggests the public do if approached by a panhandler is to give out a brochure or business card with information about and a phone number for the department’s Homeless Outreach Team.
The brochures – which are available, along with the business cards, at Wichita Police Department substations – list various community resources and organizations, such as shelters, food banks, health services and housing contacts.
Cruz pointed members of the public to a video that the department posted on its Facebook page on Thursday that encourages people to “help the right way” by giving panhandlers information for the various community resources available.
One of the organizations listed on the brochure is the United Methodist Open Door Resource Center in downtown Wichita. Deann Smith, executive director of the center, said the organization also tells people not to give money to panhandlers.
“Studies have shown that they will often use that money for things that aren’t very healthy – things like drugs or alcohol,” Smith said.
Smith said the center typically serves around 200 people at its day center.
The Wichita-Sedgwick County Point-In-Time Homeless Count on Jan. 25 showed there were 575 homeless people on that date.
Wichita does have an ordinance against panhandling, said David Nienstedt of the Homeless Outreach Team.
The Wichita-Sedgwick County Point-In-Time Homeless Count on Jan. 25 showed there were 575 homeless people in the county on that date, up four from the same date a year ago, according to a release from the United Way.
The survey represents a snapshot of homelessness on a specific night.