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Giving money to panhandlers not the best option

June 2, 2018 GMT

The Idaho Falls area is a popular tourist destination in the summer, which also makes it a popular place for panhandlers.

Most local panhandlers can be seen near the Ammon Walmart, the Idaho Falls Walmart and Fred Meyer.

While the panhandlers may draw people in for money, it may not be in their best interest to give them cash, said Anne Johnson, manager at the Haven Shelter. These people often have mental health, drug or alcohol problems. Giving them money may just enable their problems instead of helping them get better, Johnson said.

She estimates that the city has around 10 to 15 regular panhandlers.

“All of them have been contacted by the police to get resources, but that’s not what they want,” Johnson said. “They want cash.”

Johnson said if people want to help it’s best to donate to organizations such as the Haven or Club Inc. that help people get back on their feet. Johnson said often these people don’t want, or will refuse help from organizations that could benefit them.

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“It’s fine if you want to give them a hamburger or something or if you’re going to give them some food, but that’s not what they’re interested in,” she said.

People have a right to panhandle and solicit, as long as it’s on public property and isn’t blocking a road or a sidewalk, Idaho Falls Police Capt. Royce Clements said.

He said local panhandlers usually aren’t aggressive, but the road and sidewalk ordinances are in place to help police address any issues.

It’s up to the individual to determine if they want to give to panhandlers and police are happy to go check the panhandlers who residents are worried about, Clements said.

Panhandlers are often transients who follow the warm weather, Johnson said. There are regulars dispersed throughout the city that work the same corners, such as near the Ammon Walmart entrance.

If panhandlers enter public property they can be asked to leave or charged with trespassing if they refuse or return, Clements said. But as long as they are on public property they are allowed to be there.