Kevin Joy’s story is the kind that sparks outrage.
The 43-year-old homeless Fresno man was cited about 60 times last year, according to police, for “aggressive” panhandling and loitering on medians without a permit.
The turn of the calendar produced no change in Joy’s behavior. He was cited Jan. 18 for standing on the median at Clinton and Weber avenues. At that time, police said, Joy had $1,800 in his pockets. Two days later, he was cited two more times for the same offense – at the same location.
There ought to be a way to keep this guy off the streets, right?
Well, there is. Joy, as The Fresno Bee’s Rory Appleton reported, has served two jail sentences in the last year for panhandling crimes. After last week’s events, a city attorney said he will seek another jail stint for Joy.
For most people, panhandlers are a nuisance. You ignore them and go about your business. But panhandlers, especially those who are loud and demanding, can be intimidating, too. Think of seniors being approached in supermarket parking lots. Or a mother in a minivan packed with kids encountering a threatening panhandler when she pulls into a gas station.
Clearly the law and patrol officers alone can’t deal with the problem. It really comes down to citizens not rewarding panhandlers.
We know that this might sound coldhearted. We know that every person makes a personal choice whether to roll down the window and hand a handful of change or a $1 bill – or more – to somebody who appears to be down on their luck.
But every time you give a panhandler money, you are reinforcing their behavior and enabling them to continue living on the streets. For some, begging and intimidating becomes a “job” – a fact established by Joy’s citation history and the amount of cash he possessed Jan. 18.
There are many dozens of programs – government and private – throughout the Valley available to people who want to get off drugs, need a place to stay or need mental health treatment.
As for panhandlers claiming to be veterans at left-turn lights and freeway entry and exit points, well, we doubt that many of them actually served our country. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for all of its well-documented problems, has many programs to help homeless veterans get shelter, health care and job training.
In addition, the VA provides grants to nonprofits to provide services for homeless veterans. If you are a homeless vet or know one, here is the number to call toll free for help: 877-424-3838.
If you want to help the homeless, the smart choice is to donate money or your time to efforts that will help turn around the lives.
Giving somebody a buck or two might make you feel good for a moment. But the reality is, every time you do that, you are negating legitimate efforts to help the homeless and perpetuating Fresno’s abundance of aggressive panhandlers.