“Keep the Change” program asks people to stop giving money to panhandlers

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MARYSVILLE, WA (KCPQ) — At the HotRod Barbershop in Marsyville, a new sign greets customers on the way in, encouraging them to “Keep the Change” and not give money to panhandlers in town.

“It just got to the point where they were down there on the corners fighting each other,” said employee Karen Suppan. “My husband and I saw them literally and it came to blows. They’re owning these streets and they’re making big money.”

Mayor Jon Nehring pitched the ‘Keep the Change’ idea to the owners recently. At the same time, the Mayor was receiving more and more complaints about aggressive panhandlers.

Instead, Nehring encourages people to donate to charities that help the homeless. In his community that includes the Marysville Community Food Bank and the Damascus Road Church.

“They more and more were going into the parking lot and literally approaching moms as they were getting the kids into the car and their merchandise,” Nehring said. “They would turn around to grab their keys and someone is standing there they didn’t know they were there asking for money.”

Now, the campaign has spread to neighboring Arlington where the police chief believes there is a link between panhandling and an increase in heroin use. One hundred window decals have been distributed to businesses and homeowners. But not everyone is happy about the brogram. Vietnam Vet Jim on the corner of 4th Street and the I-5 off-ramp in Marysville. He said the Keep the Change campaign hurts because he needs the help spare change provides him.

“I come out three days a week or so when I run out of money,” Jim said. “I ran out earlier this week.”

Jim adamantly denied using money he receives to by alcohol or drugs. Concerned citizens, such as Georgina Median, said they will continue to give to people like Jim because the money goes directly to those in needs.

“Seeing people like him it really hurts my heart,” said Median “Today me and my daughter have been in Everett and here and are just going around handing stuff out.”

Nehring said he definitely supports kindness, just in a more official capacity.

“We are very compassionate towards those who are truly homeless and in need of help,” Nehring said. “But we want to be very careful that we’re meeting the needs of those who need the help and not subsidizing drug habits.”

By Dana Rebik


  • Diane Highley Kleb

    It has gotten really bad in Springfield, IL. You can’t drive down the street without seeing someone at a light or corner holding a sign asking for money. It’s getting out of hand. Just had a woman come up to my car this morning in the parking lot at Walmart , gave me a huge sad story about her and 6 kids needing money for the bus, I gave her money, and prayed it was actually going for what she said it was for. I wish I could help more, and try to at least know were I can send them to get the help they are asking for.

  • Nancy

    The cops do their jobs..but their jobs also entail enforcing traffic laws, answering calls, working traffic accidents, patrolling neighborhoods and shopping centers. Would you prefer they simply ignore all other calls for service and sit on street corners to deter panhandling? If they did that and your family was robbed walking to their car at a shopping center, you’d say “why aren’t the cops doing their jobs to protect us”.

  • Jesse LeSueur

    Thats the Christian attitude, screw the poor, the weak and the homeless. They must have messed up, are there no prisons, are there no workhouses? What is wrong with this country!? Are we so self righteous that we can look down on the poor like a nuisance? Didn’t Jesus say ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Ignore the poor at your own risk.

  • wematter1

    I believe it is wrong to try and stop pan handling when it is not bothering anyone much just say sorry no and walk away or give a dollor. A lot of people spend money on useless things and we all need help at times and it would be terrible to be on the streets and if drinking or whatever keeps them warm and happy so be it. I’d probably drink to if I had to sleep on the uncomfortable cold street. God says to be a cheerful giver and you know in your heart you are giving for the right reasons. What they choose to spend it on is their choice. I am so tired of hearing they will just spend it on drugs or alcohol blah blah blah. You can never know what anybody will spend the money on so don’t even try and just give if you have it and not if you dont. Its not hurting you but stop judging people…

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