BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Bakersfield officials are asking you the public to avoid handing out money to homeless on the streets, and instead donating it to a credible service organization.
Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh posted to Facebook Friday, saying "Handouts don't help." The mayor asking the public not to give handouts to panhandlers because it can draw them back to locations and enable substance abuse.
"Nobody comes out here to be homeless on their own decision," said Jesus Martinez who panhandles for food in downtown Bakersfield. "I feel real bad for saying this, but if they're hooked on drugs or they're slamming and they just want to be a junkie then I don't know know but people like that mess it up for other people like me," he continued.
Martinez grew up in Bakersfield, and has lived on the streets ever since his girlfriend split up with him about 2 months ago. He says a good amount of the people he meets on the streets do abuse hard drugs.
"In most cases, and I do say most, and I'll even add a percentage. About 85 to 90 percent, he said.
This is why the city wants to steer the public away from giving money to the homeless, and direct it elsewhere.
"It's so much more effective to give funds to agencies that help the homeless. Agencies that provide meals, shelter, and referrals to other services that can bring those lasting changes, that can deal with mental health and substance abuse," Mayor Goh said.
And some in Bakersfield have their own reasons for not giving to the homeless.
"Simply because I've seen them cheat the system, these guys will panhandle and play off the sympathy of people and then they walk out and get in their car and take off cause they know people will fall for it," said Kyle Starr, who lives in Bakersfield.
"If they have a dog usually I do it for the dog because it's super hot in this town and I love animals so I literally just do it for the dog. If the person didn't have a dog I wouldn't even look their way," said Bakersfield resident Berenice Chavez.
Others are fine with handouts as long as it doesn't support a bad habit. That's what Francisca Bosley taught her 8-year-old twin daughters Mackenzie and Mackayla.
"Whatever you do, never give people money, give them food or water," Mackayla said.
Still, the mayor says its best to donate to organizations like the Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Mission at Kern County so they can work to bring lasting solutions. Martinez says its hard for him when he doesn't get handouts, but he keeps a positive attitude.
"If I don't get something provided for me than I just feel like it wasn't in god's will for me to have it that day. I'm learning something new," he said.
The mayor says you can make a donation to the Bakersfield Homeless Center, or the Mission at Kern County by texting bakohomeless to 44321.