San Bernardino looking for solution to panhandling problem


While Jesse Hale says he sleeps under a bridge at night, he spends his day along a freeway off-ramp in San Bernardino, asking for food, money and anything else people offer.

"It just helps us out because we can't get a job or anything," Hale said. "I (don't) have any family out here or anything."

He says he uses the money for alcohol, or "whatever I need." But while Hale's struggle may be apparent, his plight is also a problem for the gas station next door.

"It is really bad because a lot of time, they approach our customers, and they don't like it," said gas station owner Anil Kumar.

And because it's gotten so bad, it's become one of the top priorities for police. While panhandling may be a crime, tough enforcement may not be the only answer.

"The thing I tell people over and over again is we're not going to be able to just arrest our way out of this situation. It's a bigger issue than that," said Lt. Mike Madden of the San Bernardino Police Department.

Madden says a lot of it involves urging residents not to give money away.

"If you want to give, truly give to those organizations that have the services available for them," Madden said.

But Councilwoman Wendy McCammack, who's a business owner herself, knows it's going to be a tough sell.

"You've gotta stop folks from giving money, and people have big hearts," McCammack said.

Some people say for the city to ask people not to give to panhandlers is wrong.

"I empathize because I've been there, I feel their pain. I don't care what they're going to use the money for, do good and don't ask why," said Salvador Vasquez of Rialto.

The police department is hoping to provide residents with cards that they can give to panhandlers, directing them to places where they can get help.

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