Cleveland downtown vendors, businesses report panhandling problems

Posted at 10:47 PM, Oct 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-16 09:16:03-04

Some downtown Cleveland vendors and business owners report growing issues with panhandlers they believe are becoming more aggressive and bold.

Jason Scott, who has worked at Greg's Produce at Cleveland's West Side Market for several years said he's witnessed a wide variety of panhandling ploys.

"They come around and they collect all this money, and where is the money actually going to, nobody really knows," said Scott.

"They just spend all day trying to scam people."

Dolores Manley, who is licensed to sell The Cleveland Street Chronicle, told News 5 panhandlers are now using the publication to ask for cash.

"I think it's disgusting, especially when they use a good product like this newspaper," said Manley.

"It says right on the paper it's only a $1.25, but when the person gives them the $1.25, they say could you spare a little bit more, I'm dying of cancer."

Chris Knestrick, Executive Director with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, which publishes the Cleveland Street Chronicle, said he wasn't aware of anyone panhandling using the newspaper.

Knestrick said all approved vendors who distribute the publication are issued an ID badge, and he encourages people to report unlicensed people trying to sell the paper

Knestrick said residents need to be patient with panhandlers, and treat them like a fellow human being, even if they are overly persistent.

"Looking them in the eye and having a conversation, asking their name. Get to know them and hear their story," said Knestrick.

Cleveland's panhandling law was taken off the books this past summer.

Knestrick believes the best way to deal with the panhandling issue is by hiring outreach workers, and engaging panhandlers in trying to find an answer to the problem.

However Knestrick admits finding funding for the program won't be easy.

Meanwhile, Manley believes residents need to ask questions before they give.

"Oh it's sickening, it is very sickening," said Manley.  Especially when I know that he or she is living in the Gold Coast in Lakewood."