ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The City of Rockford is placing signs advising against giving money to panhandlers at major intersections, and a panhandler we spoke to says the effort is working.
The City has placed ten signs at intersections which read: “Panhandling is not safe. Contribute to the solution – give to local charities.”
The signs are located at:
• 6th and Jefferson
• Whitman and Church
• Highcrest and Spring Creek
• Alpine and State
• Mulford and State
• Perryville and State
• Springcreek and Alpine
• Riverside and Main
• Harrison and 11th
• Harrison and 20th
But panhandler Clifford Berriers, who stands at the intersection of E. State and Mulford Road, said he strongly disagrees with the message.
“If you can give up $2, then what’s $2 to you? You have a car You have a home. A few bucks here or there ain’t going to kill nobody,” Berriers said.
Berriers said the signs are making it harder for him to get back on his feet, and has resulted in fewer people giving him money.
“They’re basically blocking me from being able to help myself,” he said of the signs.
Mayor Tom McNamara said residents have complained that they are fed up with an explosion in panhandling since the Illinois Supreme Court legalized the practice.
“I think, right now, everyone has grown tired of seeing panhandlers on so many different corners,” he said.
McNamara says his hands have been tied after the court ruled panhandling as a First Amendment right, but he encouraged people not to give money to strangers.
“Folks are on those corners because people give them money. If we can stop having people give individuals on the corner money, then those folks won’t return to those corners,” he said.
Instead, McNamara suggests giving to local organizations that house, clothe and feed the homeless.
“If that’s with substance abuse, mental health concerns, or if they’re just homeless or in need of employment, we can help them with all of that, and we’d like nothing more than that,” he added.
Eyewitness News pointed out to Berriers that nearly every retail and restaurant in the area is currently hiring due to a worker shortage.
“Yes, but I ain’t got no way to get there. I ain’t got no house over my head. I got no permanent residence. I have no vehicle,” he replied.
McNamara and Berriers had very different messages for the public:
McNamara said, “We urge citizens to, please, do not give money to people who are asking for it on the street corners. Provide those funds to the great organizations in our community.”
Berriers said: “Stop judging people that you don’t know. You could be in that position at any given second.”
Berriers said he uses the money he gets from panhandling to buy food, stay in a motel, and buy cigarettes, and said he also goes to several local shelters for meals and support.