My Turn: Take it from me: Concord needs panhandling ban
I am the shelter director of The Salvation Army McKenna House, the only full-time homeless shelter in Concord, and I hope the city continues working on an ordinance banning panhandling.
I can tell you many of the men and women holding the signs are not trying to end their homelessness. They are not trying to come into our shelter, and a few of them are not even homeless.
Last Thursday I saw a former resident standing by the off-ramp of Exit 14 of Interstate 93 with a sign saying she was homeless and needed money for diapers. First of all, she has an apartment. Second, she has never had children, and I have seen her talking on an iPhone.
One of the men who stands on Storrs Street lives across the street in the new apartments.
I have seen many panhandlers buying alcohol, and I have seen known drug dealers sitting in the parking lot just waiting for the sign-holder to get enough money to buy drugs.
I have talked to a resident who is now clean and sober who would stand on the Manchester Street exit to confirm this.
I have made many calls to the police about almost getting rear-ended by someone looking or trying not to look at a panhandler holding a sign, or almost hitting a sign-holder who walked between the cars to get a donation. I have also received many phone calls telling me I needed to help those people.
When I see someone new, I do stop and hand out the shelter’s card. I have talked to the outreach worker who works directly with the homeless, and he agrees with me on this panhandling issue.
When I want to do a food drive, I am required to pay for a permit and have certain rules I must follow. When the Salvation Army rings the bells in November and December, it must pay for a permit for every kettle and follow certain rules also.
I have lived in Concord for more than 20 years, and this has only been a big problem for the past eight or nine months. Please do not try to blame the economy. We have always had homeless men and women. This city has so many resources for the homeless, if they only seek them out.
Please keep going forward on this ordinance.
(Lorrie Dale is shelter director for the Salvation Army McKenna House in Concord.)