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Grants Pass City businesses and citizens frequently ask us what they should do about panhandlers positioning themselves outside their doors. "It tears down our image and lowers real estate values. Can't you put them in the Gospel Rescue Mission and get them off the streets?"
Good questions. Let's start with one: are street beggars and panhandlers the same thing as the homeless or Gospel Rescue Mission residents?
Quick Relief for Addictions
No. They are actually different. Panhandlers don't need your money for food or shelter. Many set up their own pecking order and claim a spot making as much as $50 to $60 a day from the public. They spend it on drugs or booze and indulge in weeklong binges before heading to the streets again.
By the way, those cuddly dogs next to them on the streets are used for territorial protection while their masters sleep. This is not a tame, "cute" situation. It's a vicious lifestyle!
Understand that panhandlers refuse to follow rules required at rescue missions and decline other forms of aid where they might have to conform to ethical behaviors. They do not want your aid to help improve their lives. They want quick relief for addictions.
Grants Pass Provides Food for Hungry
Although their giant red-letter signs boldly proclaim a need for food, our community is generous and provides free meals in several places around town. So their signs are not truthful.
For example, they can receive free food from the Gospel Rescue Mission Grants Pass and Saint Vincent De Paul. The ROC and the Food Bank also supply food to the hungry and homeless. Anyone can walk in and get free meals every day - no questions asked. So when a panhandler's sign says he or she is hungry, it is not food they crave. Beware!
Working Together to Improve our Community
Our advice is to never give money to street beggars. If they do not get quick-fixes outside your doors or cars they will move on to better "spots" away from your business.
Instead, support organizations like Wagner Hall at the Gospel Rescue Mission shown here, and donate to other community food outlets, too. Encourage panhandlers to go to the free food outlets if they are truly hungry. They can also take showers at the Gospel Rescue Mission - no need to use public bathrooms.
Should they choose to stay at the Mission they are required to become drug and alcohol free and cease smoking. Residents work hard to improve their lives. Some even return to school and take vocational training.
Just remember: point the way to food outlets and give needy beggars clear directions if you can. Please compassionately offer a true solution to their needs. Remember that most free food outlets are within walking distance in our community.
Let's work together to resolve a community problem and encourage one another to engage in thoughtful, financial stewardship. Make your money count. Support your Mission and other community food outlets.
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon (Isa. 58:10, NLT).
Ken Emilio is the Executive Director of the Gospel Rescue Mission Grants Pass. He holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University. His wife, Valorie, holds an MA in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins.
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