No - Eyes - to - the - Sky
Hand Up Enterprise AL is committed to serving the legitimate homeless population in the best way we can with the current resources available to us. We are also familiar with most of the quirky residents that are relatively harmless. Just because someone appears scruffy and you might believe is homeless isn't always the case. We investigate all reports of [potentially] homeless individuals. Our assistance offers a hot meal, portable meals, personal essential items, clean/gently used clothes/sneakers/coats, blankets and towels. For those who do not have a sleeping bag, tent, wagon or backpack our members mobilize and donate these items or HUE purchases. We ask if there is a family member or a friend we may call to report on their safety. These individuals are somebody's someone.
Until Enterprise has a facility dedicated to temporarily housing the homeless with the goal of career development geared to transitional housing it is heartbreaking and frustrating that the best intervention we can offer is a tent. Our vision is to have community sponsored, "No Eyes to the Sky" comfort stations. They are a portable unit that offers potable water, a shower, and washing machines. Within the station can be available clean gently used blankets, towels/shoes/clothing and non-perishable foods. We must make every effort to treat our homeless population humanely. Even a vacant piece of land outfitted with a canvas canopy furnished with cots is better than sleeping on the ground with, "Eyes to the Sky".
There are four (4) classifications of homeless individuals;
1. Legitimate spiraling circumstances where no money, no job, mental or physical condition combined with lack of affordable housing have left them with no roof. This includes individuals who are taken in by relatives or friends.
2. Transient homeless aka "Drifters" who are passing through town hitch-hiking.
3. Feral individuals who live deep in the pinewoods and rarely venture out, especially in day light hours.
4. Chronic homeless who cycle in and out of homelessness.
5. CAREER homeless. Those who seek to appear homeless with the express purchase of panhandling cash.
At any given time Enterprise has between 10 and 40 homeless. They are living in the woods, in their cars, in abandoned houses, in alleyways, behind downtown businesses, behind residential sheds and in the shadows of our shopping districts. This is not acceptable.
In the course of investigating suspected homeless reports we frequently encounter con-artists who exploit our residents for money. These scammers, aka CAREER HOMELESS jump locations (to avoid police) in public shopping centers. They use panhandling as an easy money scam. Some hold signs and others use dogs or CHILDREN as props. One well known man used an accessorized shopping cart (stashed away) and used it to appear homeless. In fact he owned a car and also a van which he rolled the cart up into.
Women have been known to pad themselves in order to appear pregnant. A husband and wife team padded an empty baby carriage with blankets to make it appear they had an infant. Positioned at a WALMART stop sign, unsuspecting drivers rolled to a stop and pressed bills into their hands. Dozens of full grocery bags were at their feet. When Hand Up arrived and questioned their circumstances the team scurried into their brand new SUV.
One only has to observe - using sight and the sense of smell. Clean clothes, new sneakers, eyes darting about, over-talking and getting way too close to you are sure signs you are being conned.
All of these con-artists place themselves in heavily traveled areas. Some of the habitual scammers are aggressive and will follow and harass you - especially if you have given them money before. They can "make" up to $800 per day. NO ONE should open a wallet or purse to give cash to any individual, pay for a motel room, or pay back due motel bills under any circumstances. When in doubt of their circumstances offer to get a meal and return with it. More likely than not they'll appeal for cash. Offered food has been tossed in the trash.
We have a site called: Hand Up Enterprise AL Homeless N.E.T.T.S. which is used specifically to report suspected homeless or scammers. Hand Up Enterprise AL Homeless N.E.T.T.S. Please join.
PLEASE phone the police and report anyone who is panhandling. It is against the law. The police will respond. Even if an arrest is not made and the police move them along scammers will learn they are not welcome here. While we may not ever eradicate these scammers 100% we are making a significant dent.