Drivers and residents are noticing panhandlers more and more all around Connecticut, but depending on where they stand, there is little local officials and police can do about their presence.
"It never fails to make me sad," said Beth Knapp of Wethersfield
Panhandlers can be seen often near the Interstate 91 Exit 24 off ramp in Rocky Hill or just down the road in the Walmart plaza as well as in Glastonbury.
Some people blamed the increased number of panhandlers on the economy.
"There's something wrong when we have so many people here in this state that are out of work," said Ray Kryzak of Wethersfield.
While other Connecticut residents said they feel the panhandlers are creating a dangerous situation.
"If you're alone in the car, you're on the drivers side, they're on the passenger side of the street, it's a very busy intersection here at the stop and shop corner," Knapp said in Rocky Hill. "It takes work to get in and out of there safely."
And the panhandlers have created a liability for at least one Connecticut town.
"It's becoming a problem, but it's a problem that's difficult to address for communities," said Rocky Hill Town Manager Barbara Gilbert.
Gilbert said the town's police officers are keeping watch on the panhandlers. As long as they're on private or state property, there isn't much they can do unless they impede traffic.
In some cases, a shopping plaza will write a letter to the town granting police permission to remove people asking for money there. However, the owners of Stop and Shop plaza in Rocky Hill where panhandlers are commonly seen haven't done that.
Gilbert has another concern as well. These panhandlers may be preying on the goodwill of residents in her town.
"Unfortunately, many of the people really aren't what they're portraying. When we see someone at the Stop and Shop plaza, especially, we send our human services people out there," she said. "Our human services people will ask them if they need a place to stay, if they need food, if they need assistance."
However at least one panhandler in Glastonbury told Eyewitness News that he needs the help.
"I'm just trying to make it through the day, that's all," said one man, who would only be identified as Keith.
Keith admitted to Eyewitness News that he has a troubled past and believes a felony on his record discourages potential employers from hiring him.
He told Eyewitness News that panhandling is the only way he can make money to get food and has recently been sleeping inside the Salvation Army donation bin to try to find some warmth at night.
However, he said he's been helped by the kindhearted people stopping here to offer their support and now he's hoping to get into a shelter for a warm bed and some job training.
"Some of these people probably truly have a need, and I think if people want to donate to them they should be allowed to do that," Kryzak said.
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