May 3, 2012 9:45 PM by Nikki Ibarra, KSBY News

San Luis Obispo shelter encourages public to not give money to panhandlers

You see a panhandler on the corner begging for money, or just holding up a sign. So, do you give them money? Well, a San Luis Obispo homeless shelter is encouraging you not to do so.

According to the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, there are about 4,000 homeless people in San Luis Obispo county. In Santa Barbara County, it's a little more. The Department of Housing and Urban Development said there are about 4,800.

CAPSLO said many homeless shelters across the Central Coast are hurting financially. When you give a homeless person money, you don't know where it goes. But, giving it to a shelter will, in turn, go back to the homeless community for things like, food and clothing.

Every day for the past year, Crystal Davis hangs around downtown San Luis Obispo, with her sign and backpack.

"I just hold my sign and give them a smile, and hopefully they'll give me something, anything helps," said Davis of Atascadero.

When we visited her in the afternoon, she already made $14. "I try to stop between $40 and $50. I just get food, and I'm a smoker. I get cigarettes, something to drink. If I need something to wear, I buy that. Other than that, I try not to take advantage of people," added Davis.

CAPSLO said there's no reason for people to be panhandling, especially since there are places like the Maxine Lewis Shelter, which offers meals, beds and clothing.

"Some of those people are actually using our services, getting food, getting clothing, and they're still out there with signs, saying that they're hungry or things like that," said Dee Torres of CAPSLO.

Esperanza Nunez used to give food and, even money, to the homeless but not anymore; especially, since she started seeing young people begging for money. "You know, they can go to work. I'm going to be 70, you know, and I'm still very active. And, I never begged for anything. I got things because I worked for it," said Nunez of Santa Maria.

Crystal Davis knows there are places that help, but said they're too crowded. So she'll continue to sit downtown with her sign, until she can find a job. "It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from. Everybody who's holding a sign or sitting out here needs some kind of help," said Davis.

On average, it takes about $500,000 a year to run a shelter. That money comes from fundraising and from the community. The Good Samaritan in Santa Maria also agrees, saying people should give money to the shelter, instead of panhandlers.


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