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Updated Dec 19, 2013 - 6:41 am

Pastor: Saying 'no' to panhandlers OK at times

PHOENIX -- A Valley pastor said it's always good to help those in need, but not donating if you get a strange vibe is acceptable.

"We're instructed by scriptures to be giving and to be benevolent, but I don't think that means that we should be brain dead," said Pastor John Brown of Calvary Chapel Central Phoenix.

If it looks like the person really needs help, then Brown said to "give him a buck or two," but be aware that some panhandlers are fraudulent.

"In our day and age, there are more people out there who are just using that as a way to make a living, rather than really needing the money," he said.

Brown learned firsthand that not every panhandler is willing to earn any money that you give them. His church used to be near the Greyhound bus station at 27th and Glendale avenues, and people would constantly come to the church asking for money for a bus ticket. Many times, he promised to help them if they would agree to do some work for the church.

"I would say that nine out of 10 people would not show up the next day for work in order to earn the ticket."

Panhandlers continue to be an issue around the city, but police officers have no legal recourse to remedy the problem.

Cops have their hands tied when it comes to a spike in the number of beggars in Phoenix.

"Part of the reason is because of the challenges we have legally on what we can do or enforce," said Phoenix Police Sergeant Steve Martos.

Unless someone breaks any other law, panhandlers are free to beg for money on city streets since it is an act protected under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

As the problem worsens, department leaders aren't releasing details, but they are looking for options to stop the activity.

However, if someone comes to you and says they need money for a meal, Brown said a good way to handle it is to offer to take them into a fast food restaurant and pay for their meal, instead of giving them money. That way you make sure you're helping them solve their hunger needs instead of giving them money that they may instead use to buy alcohol or drugs.

Brown noted that many times when you offer to pay for the meal, the panhandler may refuse that and tell you he just wants the money, a possible indication that the person isn't being honest.

Brown said if you don't feel the urge to give them money, don't feel guilty.

"Scripture said the poor we will always have amongst us, and that we should give to them and help as we feel led, not necessarily because we feel obligated."

But Brown said if you do feel guilty after driving off, that may be a sign that someone is telling you that the person really does need help, and that you should turn around, go back and help.

KTAR's Sandra Haros contributed to this report.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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