News 9 Producer Goes Undercover As A Panhandler
OKLAHOMA CITY - We see them standing on street corners throughout the city. Panhandlers seem to have increased as the job market and economy remain shaky. But who is behind the sign?
And can they really earn a living this way? We sent News 9 producer Greg Hanna undercover to see what it's really like to stand on the streets to beg for cash.
Holding up a sign that said "help feed hungry kids" Hanna stood on the side of the road mid-afternoon at Memorial and Penn during the holidays. And it didn't take long for Oklahomans to open up their wallets.
In 15 minutes, generous drivers gave Hanna a total of $18. While it may seem like quick money at first, Hanna says it wasn't easy.
"It was a different kind of experience," he said. "A lot of people want to avert their eyes. They don't want to look at you as they drive past you. But now I think doing it, you feel ashamed standing out there."
And that was just an experiment. What about the people who panhandle on a much more regular basis?
Hanna spoke with one man standing off Northwest Expressway and Lake Hefner Parkway. He seemed to have a routine, walking up and down the median, hoping to earn a few bucks.
Next Hanna spent several minutes talking with another man we've seen regularly sitting on a corner of May Avenue just off I-44. His wife sits on the adjacent corner.
He said they're both homeless.
"I don't know what to say, man. You just have to do what you got to do," the man said. "I don't know whether I can tell you if it's solid. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes not so good. All you do is sit there and be patient."
Many Oklahoma drivers have expressed their frustration with the growing number of panhandlers in our city. We took your concerns to Oklahoma City police.
"It's a double edged sword," Captain Don Martin said. "You give because you want to help, but then again, the act of helping someone sometimes will entice them to increase in numbers."
Bottom line, the Oklahomans we talked to said it's a matter of survival.
"You got to do what you got to do" another panhandler said.
Oklahoma City Police say the law allows panhandlers to be on public property just like someone raising money for charity, as long as they don't approach you.
By the way, the money Greg earned to "feed hungry kids." We're donating it to the Regional Food Bank's Food for Kids program.
OKC Panhandling Hot Spots:
From OCPD. These are not scientific, just from officers' perspectives:
1. Memorial and Pennsylvania Avenue (On the north and south sides of the turnpike)
2. Memorial and Western Avenue (On the north and south sides of the turnpike)
3. NE 122nd Street and I-35 (At the end of the northbound exit ramp which connects to the service road)
4. I-240 and S. Western Avenue (On the north and south side of I-240)
5. Memorial and May Avenue (On the North and South sides of the turnpike)
6. SW 3rd and Western Avenue