Begging in the suburbs: Should you give?

Posted at 11:41 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 05:08:50-05

Panhandlers standing on the corners has become an increasing issue. Men, women, old and young, all begging for your money. 

The problem has moved from the city to the suburbs, but why? And, should you give?

It seems to have happened in recent months. Panhandlers, everywhere, including American's first highway, Woodward Avenue. 

They hold signs and pull at your heart strings. Some claim to be homeless, to have cancer, or be a veteran who is hungry. But, are we being conned?

We spotted a young guy at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Maple on a recent Friday afternoon panhandling. Moments later, we watched as he folded up his sign and walked to a nearby parking lot where he got into a dark colored SUV. 

We spotted the same SUV on different occasions at a house in a nice neighborhood in West Bloomfield. When confronted, the young guy first closed the door without answering if he considered what he was doing fraud. 

Moments later, after being exposed, he came out, profanities flying - upset he was going to be on TV.

To some, panhandling has become a job. 

"Honest Abe" and his crew work the corner at 8 Mile and Woodward daily. He even accepts credit cards, but says he is truly homeless and panhandling frauds are becoming more frequent. 

The problem is growing. Corners that were once off limits are now prime real estate and a recent court ruling involving the Michigan Chapter of the ACLU allows it to happen.

"Court said conduct of asking for money in public is a form of free speech, it must be protected by the First Amendment." Attorney Ryan Berman told 7 Action News.

We discovered many panhandlers work in teams, sharing signs and corners. Some use your money to buy food, others trade the cash for drugs, booze or cigarettes. 

Elizabeth Kelly with Hope Shelter in Pontiac says if you want to really help, there are other ways to give. 

"If you really want your donation to do the most good, the very best thing is to give it to an agency that is going to move them forward."

For more information on Hope Shelter and how you can help: