Stuck at the red light, you look over and see a Panhandler with a sign that reads “Hungry, Anything Helps.” Most people hurry past, but have you ever wondered what brought them there? What is their story?
If you live travel through Wheeling, you may recognize Freddie Blake standing by Perkins at the I-70 off ramp. He says after he fell on hard times, he was told by God to stand outside and give people “Free Tickets to Heaven.”
“I can’t get a job nowhere, and he told me just to stand here and pass these tickets out and he would take care of me,” said Blake.
Dave Pringle on Wheeling Island says his longtime friend Becky was in a bad accident. After the trauma, he says he isn’t the same and is unable to return to work as a painter.
“You don’t know the outcome of your mind, that really. I used to work all my life, I just can’t do it I keep bawling,” said Pringle.
Many feel frustrated and wonder if they are even allowed to beg? Panhandling across the nation is not against the law. According to the city of Wheeling, they are legally allowed to stand anywhere as long as they aren’t blocking traffic or being aggressive.
Crystal Bauer, a registered nurse, works with the homeless and has friends who panhandle.
“They don’t acknowledge you, I can’t imagine what that must feel like to stand there and have thousands of people driving by you everyday and maybe one out of every 100 is looking at you,” said Bauer.
Bauer says it is true that a common thread is drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness.
Dave and Freddie say everyday people are rude, thinking they don’t really need help, but some are kind too.
“Yeah, they’re good, everybody’s good. There’s a lot of good people out there,” said Pringle.
“They bring me food and stuff, you know if somebody comes by and offers me some work I’ll go do it, if I can do it. You know there’s a lot of things I can’t do anymore,” said Blake.
If you’re uncomfortable giving money, a simple gesture can go a long way. A hello, a smile, or even a bottle of water could make a difference.
“You know you can always show kindness and just acknowledge that someone is a human being without supporting the panhandling,” said Bauer.
The men and women holding the signs are someone’s brother, mother, or sister and no matter their story, they’re just trying to get by.
“I’m going to do this the rest of my life,” said Blake.