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Part I: 'Undercover Panhandling'

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By Brittany Cooper

Twin Falls, Idaho (KMVT-TV) There are nearly 100 people who are homeless in South Central Idaho, compared to 2008 when there was only 67. This according to Boise State University's Public Policy Center.
But what about panhandlers? Studies show a majority of those who panhandle aren't actually homeless. According to Idaho State Code, panhandling is considered to be illegal. In Part One of "Undercover Panhandling," we take a look how it's viewed in our community.

"It's definitely an issue that we have just like a medium to larger city, however the panhandlers that we usually deal with aren't of the aggressive nature," says Officer Dan Heil, Twin Falls Police Department.

In Dan Heil's seven years on the force, each summer he sees a handful of panhandlers take a seat on the curbside or walk down the sidewalks.

Heil adds, "with our development in Twin Falls getting bigger, we have more intersections that have a large volume of cars driving by them which leads to the people sitting on street corners asking for money."

Police involvement typically begins when a panhandler steps out onto the roadway, harasses drivers or trespasses on private property.

"If we're not getting phone calls to deal with those people, we're usually dealing with other situations that take precedent," states Heil.

Still, no one is allowed to solicit rides or money on public roadways and sidewalks in Idaho.

Ironically though, we have a portion of our citizens that aren't homeless and still do this to make money," says the officer.

For Sharon Breshears of the Valley House, she's attempted to inform panhandlers about their services, but not one so far has taken her up on her offer. Because if you're living at the Valley House Homeless Shelter, panhandling is not an acceptable way to earn a living. All clients are expected to be looking for work unless they're unable to do so for specific reasons.

Breshears adds, "if a client were out on the street panhandling, we would have to sit them down and talk to them because that is not something that is going to happen with our clients here."

While a client has never been removed for panhandling, it's highly discouraged...Providing a hand up, not a hand out.



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