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Panhandling to publics emotions pays dividends
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A cardboard sign claiming homelessness by what appears to be a seriously troubled couple has caused Mantecans to open their wallets and purses all over town. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin
It pays to be “homeless” in Manteca – because Mantecans have heart.  One young couple is proving that notion as shoppers are repeatedly touched with their imagined plight.

The first time I saw this couple sitting together on the curbing just north of Bank of the West off Commerce Drive my heart was touched.  They looked so sad there with a cardboard sign claiming they were homeless asking for help.  The sign also read, “God Bless.”

After having lunch at In-N-Out Burger my first reaction was to stop and chat with them and offer maybe $5 or $10 that would have helped and it would have been from the heart.  But, I hesitated.  And when they were there time after time mid-day, it was obvious that taking a pass with handing out my greenbacks may have been the right reaction to what others have described as a “puppy dog” cry for help.

They would sit side by side.  The woman laying her forearms across her bent knees, looking like she had lost her last friend in the world not to mention family.  The man holding the sign day after day had his eyes to the gutter and his arm around his lady in a protective and caring mode – looking so desperate and helpless.

There is little that can be done about panhandling,  a police officer told me,  until the person or persons cause traffic to stop or create a hazard, which they were doing at their locations of choice.

After a trip to Costco on Sunday, I was surprised to see the couple claiming a piece of curb at the corner of Daniels Street just behind the Kohl’s Department Store.

 It was the same operation with the woman having the same backpack at her side in the gutter giving the appearance that they were on foot and without transportation. Families driving into the shopping center off of Daniels and going to Costco couldn’t help but see them.  And when shopping families were leaving the store motorists could only imagine the seriousness of the duo’s dilemma as their dire situation once again caught their eyes.

Many of these families had been to church within the hour where they were reminded of their responsibility to help the homeless and the hungry.  In one case a dad was seen taking his young son out of his van and taking part in helping the couple.

Several other cars stopped and passed cash out the window or the driver would pull over and get out of his vehicle handing money to the man as the woman continued to be in a depressed state with her body language – her forehead still pressed down against her arms.

One family that was obviously touched by the emotional plea for help actually handed over a pie they had probably bought at Costco.  The panhandlers finally decided to give up the curbing and the corner shortly after noon and walked to the parking lot in front of Kohl’s where their Ford Astrovan was parked. It was lunch time and they headed for McDonalds on Yosemite at Union Road.

Next stop was across town at the Target Store on East Yosemite Avenue near Highway 99. Police noted they have frequented Target in the past with their cardboard sign and religious bent in their quest for an income.  Apparently seeing the familiar face of a police officer they went across Yosemite Avenue to the McDonald’s east where they were told they had to fix a broken out tail light and reminded they can’t obstruct traffic while asking for money.

They were last seen getting on the freeway headed for Stockton, but without a doubt they will be back.  They’ve learned Mantecans have big hearts.