ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford aldermen raise safety concerns during a Monday night city council meeting.
At the center of those concerns were panhandlers. Aldermen are worried about the risk for panhandlers, as well as drivers. It has reportedly been a concern for a while, and city leaders are worried that some panhandlers could become aggressive, or could cause injuries by creating car accidents.
“You can see it all through out the City of Rockford, whether you’re driving to the grocery store or school, that people are out there asking for money,” said Abby Finley, marketing and communications director at Rockford Rescue Mission.
Finley said that encounters with panhandlers at busy Rockford intersections can be uncomfortable, especially for kind-hearted neighbors who want to help. That is why the mission created “Get Help” cards.
“We encourage drivers throughout the City of Rockford to not give cash to individuals who are panhandling, we encourage them to give these individuals these cards, a granola bar, a bottle of water to meet their immediate needs of hunger and thirst, but to also give them information about services that they can receive to help them get out of the spot they’re in,” Finley said.
Panhandling is legal in Illinois, but one Rockford alderman is worried about people walking into the street, walking in-between cars and on medians.
“While you have the freedom to stand on that wall, that doesn’t stop you from getting hurt, either by someone mugging you, or by some vehicle running over you,” said 10th Ward Alderman Frank Beach.
Beach believes that the Rockford community has a passion for helping people in need, but fears that passion could create more dangers. He wonders if there is a way to discourage people from giving panhandlers cash.
“Maybe in our utility bills or water bills, things like that,” Beach said. “Maybe a little reminder.”
That is where the Rescue Mission says those cards come in, a little reminder of how to help those who need it.
“So even if in that moment, you don’t feel like that person isn’t getting that immediate help they need,” Finley said. “They are, because you are planting that seed and giving them information that can be truly life changing for them.”
More information can be found on the Rockford Rescue Mission’s website.