Ask For Tax ID When Giving This Holiday Season
As traffic increases around the Valley, so does the number of people standing on street corners asking for money.
In Maricopa County, nearly 9,000 people are homeless. Of those, 15 percent are chronically homeless and part of a growing group panhandling.
David Gillette with Purpose Movement recognized the problem two years ago.
“I wanted to walk in their footsteps. So, I made a couple signs,” he said. The cardboard posters read, "I’m not homeless, but I know who is. Please help me feed them tonight.”
He amassed a small army of volunteers over the holiday weekend to panhandle for the homeless and raise money to feed 5,000 over the month of December.
The group is now a registered 501(C)3 nonprofit planning ahead for the next year.
“We’re building new relationships with good supporters and volunteers,” Gillette said, listing several group homes he plans to bring food deliveries to in the east valley.
At St. Vincent de Paul in downtown Phoenix, Jessica Berg oversees the coordination of 5,000 meals for the homeless every day.
She has not heard, yet, from the Purpose Movement, but looks forward to a day when they will.
“We would love these groups to partner with us,” she said.
Right now, she is focused on independent, and likely well-meaning, drivers who increasingly pull up outside the shelter offering food to the homeless on the street.
“I get the sentiment. Sometimes people have a big party and they’ll hand out all of this food,” but, it’s not safe, “if the [homeless] put it in a pocket and eat it later, who know if it’s at the right temperature.”
“Those methods of street feeding or street giving don’t move a person closer to ending their homelessness,” said Reverend Jerome Parker with the newly formed Healthy Giving Council.
Handouts, he said, perpetuate homelessness and sustained handouts create chronic homelessness by encouraging the homeless to continue panhandling.
“We’re not saying stop giving,” Parker wanted to make clear, “we’re just asking to consider giving in a more healthy way.”
To do that, he suggested donors find charitable organizations through the Givesmartaz.org website, and if approached by fundraisers while on the go, ask for a tax ID.
Gillett said his group hands out flyers with its tax ID to motorists who ask.
“Everything is public record,” he said. The fledgling organization has yet to complete a year, but Gillett assured, “We’re going to have our financials on line for them to review as we move forward.”
And, if there is doubt as a donor, Parker cautioned, “Do a little bit of soul searching and ask yourself, 'Am I giving to make myself feel better or am I giving to help get this person closer to getting off the streets?'”