City of Midland trying to redirect panhandler donations to charities

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 6:38 PM CDT
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MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) - The City of Midland is trying to put a stop to panhandling, but we spoke with one homeless man who thinks this will do more harm than good.

The city has posted 17 signs throughout the city telling drivers not to give them money, but instead to give to charities.

Paul Gohnston has been on the street for years. He usually spends four days a week at a Midland intersection hoping someone will pull up and help him out, and they usually do.

“I’ve met some amazing people in this town,” he said. “I really have.”

But the City of Midland would rather see drivers give to places like the Midland Soup Kitchen where they know the money be spent on things like food and clothes.

Kitchen organizers said panhandling is a problem because sometimes even well-meaning attempts to help homeless people might actually end up feeding addictions.

“When you’re handing out donations, your money to panhandlers, you don’t know what it’s for,” Midland Soup Kitchen Manager Nancy Ivy said. “When you give to a nonprofit you know exactly where it’s going. You know exactly what it’s doing.”

Gohnston doesn’t see it that way.

Although nonprofits can give him a hot meal or a place to sleep for a night, he said it’s not enough.

“The way it is now just getting something to eat then back out on the street the next day it feels like there’s no hope for you,” Gohnston said. “You’re just here.”

A lot of the drivers who pull up are happy to give Gohnston a handful of dollars or cover his lunch.

“I actually get more help from people on the street than I do from organizations because so many of them are willing to do something for you, you know? And they know you’re having a hard time.”

So you’d think these signs would bother Gohnston but he actually just ignores them because apparently everyone else does too.

“People don’t care about the sign,” Gohnston said. “People are going to give regardless. It doesn’t matter.”

Through the afternoon, plenty of drivers handed out cash and wished Gohnston well.

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