Photo by Tony Gaines

Groups make push to limit panhandling in northwest Houston

Precinct 4 constable, chamber continue push to eliminate practice through law enforcement and public awareness

The Courier of Montgomery County | By Glynn A. Hill | June 7, 2017

Shortly after losing her job at Five Guys in 2014, Cheraline Canida was homeless again.

It wasn’t a huge adjustment though; soliciting donations from car windows was familiar. She already knew the most lucrative blocks, the best times of day, and which intersections had polite passerby’s in north Houston.

Although Canida’s story ultimately provides a loose model for recovery, it encapsulates why the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce and Harris County Precinct 4 Constables’ Office say panhandling is a significant issue.

Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said his department takes a zero tolerance approach to panhandlers, “we just don’t allow them to violate the law,” he said, arguing that they endanger their own lives and that of drivers when they march alongside traffic.

Herman added that warning or arresting these individuals has been a priority to the point that “it’s diminished out here.”

Still, the Houston Northwest Chamber launched its “Don’t give Change-Be the Change” campaign with HOPE Haven, a homeless service, which aims “to educate the public about the importance of not giving money, rather helping nonprofit organizations that transition homeless people back into society.”

“Donors of money are sustaining the unhealthy lifestyles of the homeless and allowing them to settle deeper into their homeless or substandard lifestyle,” said Kristyn Stillwell, HOPE Haven’s executive director. “With our generous community funding this way of living, there is no motivation for these people to become productive contributors of society.”

Canida said it’s possible to earn anywhere from $10 a day to $40 an hour.

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