City Proposes Several Fixes to Panhandling Problem

<p>Homeless man</p>

Homeless man

Joselyn Olivas visits the Millennium plaza in downtown Yakima today.

Just a few months ago, she would spend a lot of her time here and on the streets -- where she used to panhandle.

"Just so that way I could get drugs pretty much," said Olivas, "I had no other way of supporting my habit at the time."

Olivas is now recovering from her addiction and no longer needs to ask for money on street corners; however, there are still those who have yet to make that transition.

The City of Yakima is looking at ways to fix that.

Some of those include providing vests to indicate the people asking for money, another is requiring them to obtain a panhandling license, and the third, setting up change meters across downtown.

People would be allowed to insert change into the meters, which would be distributed to various non-profit organizations to help those in need -- it's also meant to encourage samaritans to share the wealth, rather than hand an individual their cash.

"That way, you're not necessarily pointing out the people, because it is embarassing to any panhandler, I'm sure," said Olivas, "It's not the most comfortable thing you want to be doing."

There are those who believe none of the cities proposed plans would work; vests would not be worn, those asking for money would not register, and change meters would go unnoticed.

"I don't think people will donate to those boxes unless it's church groups or charity groups that do that," said Gabbie Schweers, "Mainly because if you don't see a person to go along with that, you're not going to donate."

Although it would provide a temporary fix, in the end, Joselyn Olivas would like to see the problem solved through those who are causing it.

"I would rather see the people get the help that they need," said Olivas, "Some people truly are homeless and they don't have anywhere to go, maybe they do need that help."

The City of Yakima hopes to present its proposals to the Public Safety Committee next month.