Topeka panhandlers: making a living at popular intersections

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — James Arnold has been homeless in Topeka for eight years and says all he has to his name is what’s in his pocket.

“Right there is 45, 53 bucks and I’ve been out here all morning,” Arnold said. “It ain’t much, it ain’t a good living.”

Arnold said he doesn’t use the resources in Topeka for the homeless, including the Topeka Rescue Mission, because he doesn’t want the handouts.

“I try everyday, I don’t want to count on a mission,” Arnold said.

In Topeka, there is a city ordinance against people standing on highways asking for money.

Sec. 69. Pedestrians Soliciting Rides or Businesses.

  • (a) No person shall stand upon or along a street or highway for the purpose of soliciting a ride.
  • (b) No person shall stand on a highway for the purpose of soliciting employment, business, or contributions from the occupant of any vehicle.

“Currently we are not enforcing that, because we believe it’s got some legal issues,” Topeka Police Legal Advisor Luther Ganieany said.

City officials have gotten several calls regarding the issue and want to find a solution, but Ganieany said many communities have tried to make panhandling illegal and it isn’t successful.

“They are making money, or they wouldn’t be out there and some people are taking that beyond just simply needing something to eat or a place to sleep,” Ganieany said.

But Arnold said, in his case, he relies on the money people give him to get by.

While it might be our first instinct to want to help, experts say there are ways to do it safely.

“Go ahead and continue to be compassionate, but don’t always just hand out the money out the window,” Berry Feaker at the Topeka Rescue Mission said.  “Don’t always just approach someone.”

He said they never encourage people to ever approach somebody who is panhandling because you don’t know what that back story is.

Feaker also said the rescue mission’s “Street Reach Program” is one way you can help out. He even suggests calling the “Street Reach” hotline if you see a homeless person or panhandler at 785-230-8237.


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