Local homeless shelter warns to be cautious of roadside panhandlers

John 3:16 Mission is working with people who really want help and not a handout. (KTUL)

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) - If the sight of someone begging at stoplights gets to you, you can relax.

The experts say the vast majority aren't homeless and won't take real help even if it's offered.

They're fixtures on our city streets and the busiest corners can attract a group of panhandlers.

While a few of them may be legitimate, the odds are against it.

The staff of the John 3:16 Mission says they're aware of one group that comes from Oklahoma City.

They travel together in a van and carry out an organized begging effort.

Last year the mission reached out to every panhandler they could find because they wanted to understand what was going on in order to help them.

The mission's President and CEO Steve Whitaker said it was a dead end.

"We were turned down in dozens and dozens of outreaches," he said. "Turned down out of hand, just cold. We don't want your help. Please go away."

He added that no one should give them money because their case work shows it's a con game.

Whitaker said real homeless people don't actually panhandle.

"They're mortified by their circumstances," he said. "They're at the lowest moment of their life. They're not going to stand on a street corner and represent themselves as something they're not."

Whitaker added that those who donate to the panhandlers help them avoid doing something else with their lives.

In some Tulsa neighborhoods, there's a backlash.

In the areas where panhandlers appear frequently, people are tired of it.

Johny Dean owns an aparment near Utica and the Broken Arrow Expressway.

" I dont give 'em a penny," he said. "I think they should have an area somewhere and get 'em out of here, that's my opinion."

So if you want to help someone who's down on their luck, you can donate to groups that help the homeless.

John 3:16 Mission is working with people who really want help and not a handout.

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