Sunday, March 9 2014 8:35 PM EDT2014-03-10 00:35:58 GMT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Those who help those in need say there are crooks trying to cash in on your compassion.
Non-profit group organizers in southern Indiana said that people trying to help the homeless should not give to those standing out in the street, especially this time of year.
Members of Exit 0 Ministries say they spend a lot of their time driving around trying to get people out off the streets from begging for money. Paul Stensrud said when people stop and try to give them some, they could be doing more harm than good.
Stensrud has helped folks like Karole before, but he had to ask Karole to stop from trying to score some cold hard cash and break the law by panhandling on Stansifer Ave. "They give us what they can everything that we need clothes food blankets," said Karole.
Karole said they could not provide shelter, but she could get a meal and some clothes when she needed it. "There are still things out there that we have to have that Paul can't get us," said Karole.
Karole said she had received help from Exit 0 and even stayed at the one shelter in town, Haven House. She said she still panhandled for cash. Stensrud said he could not continue to help her if she did not stop asking for money.
Police say panhandling happens every day in Southern Indiana due to the growing homeless population, and they cannot be lenient anymore.
Stensrud said the 24-year-old mother of three actually needs help, but it's hard to convince her or others to stop begging for money.
Police say there are imposters out there who use the money for things other than necessities and even work in shifts. They said folks giving away bills only adds to the problem.
"They can go to jail so you may think you are doing good, but you may hurt them in the long run," said Stensrud.
Chief Mike Palmer of the Clarksville Police Department and Stensrud both said the best thing to do is to donate to shelters and community organizations to combat the issue and provide assistance to those who really need it.
"We ask that you direct your donations toward that direction because these are the individuals that can help them because honestly when they are on the corner they are breaking the law by reaching into a car and trying to get money," said Stensrud.
Stensrud said if you feel the urge to help someone in need immediately, keep a snack bag in your car. He recommended including things such as proteins, nuts, aluminum pop-tabbed meats, chips and water.
"That will tie them over until they can make it to Exit 0, or to New Hope or Wayside," Stensrud said.
To get involved with the community outreach program, just check out the Facebook page.
Palmer said panhandling is a Class C Misdemeanor under Indiana State Law. He said there were a variety of traffic charges one could face in addition to panhandling for engaging in the act and putting themselves and drivers' lives in danger.