The plight of our veterans was already at the forefront of our minds this weekend when we first heard that most panhandlers who claim to be homeless veterans are not actually worthy of the title. Most, it turns out, are using the title to access the sympathy and spare change of passersby.
Homelessness among veterans is a serious problem in America; the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 107,000 veterans were without a permanent residence in 2010.
And that statistic certainly includes veterans in Syracuse, but a major effort by the VA to eliminate the problem means the majority of them are being cared for through specialized federal programs.
Odd, considering how common it is to pull off an arterial or get stopped at a light and be faced with someone claiming they're a homeless, hungry veteran.
In fact, former Syracuse Chief of Police Gary Miguel reported in 2009 that most panhandlers in Syracuse aren't even
Point being, this seems like a good time for a primer on how to deal with panhandlers when you're approached:
Don't give cash. Chances are your money will not be used for its intended purpose, and pulling out your wallet can make you vulnerable to a crime.
Panhandling in certain areas of the city -- in medians, for example -- is both unlawful and presents a danger to motorists and those who would walk out into the street for a few coins or a dollar. If panhandling in these places proves less lucrative, people will move on.
There are many services in Syracuse for homeless and needy residents, and donating time, goods or money to any of them will make a real difference in the lives of our less fortunate community members, including:
Salvation Army of Syracuse
American Red Cross of Central New York