Beggars getting not only younger, but more mobile

After being jailed for drug violations in Idaho, the man flying a sign on a local street corner earlier this week planned to make a new life in Grand Junction.

His small cardboard sign said he was stranded and needed help. The man, who didn’t want to give his name, insisted he was clean now, and asking for donations was the only way he knew to make some money. He appeared to be in his 30s and said he was staying nights at the Homeward Bound homeless shelter on North Avenue. 

Though traffic crawled by at the exit of the Rimrock Marketplace because of road construction at the intersection with U.S. Highway 6&50, the panhandler said he hadn’t made much money.

“Stop by next week. I’ll let you know what happens,” he said.

Some new trends appear to be emerging among the homeless, vagrants and panhandlers, according to Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper.

Police officers assigned to the Homeless Outreach Team are making contact with an increase in new-to-the-area younger homeless individuals. While merchants and city officials are lamenting a spike in panhandling along Main Street, panhandlers also appear to have spread to the further reaches of the city.

“We see this each summer,” Camper said. “The perception is it seems like there’s transients everywhere. With panhandling, sometimes people think they see more and sometimes people think they are seeing less. It does certainly seem to be more widespread. There is less around the parks where we were used to seeing it.”

Reports of people panhandling along Horizon Drive lately have curbed somewhat, Camper said. However, on Monday, there were panhandlers off both sides of the roadway, at the east and west off-ramps of Interstate 70.

Having panhandlers at Grand Junction’s most developed and visible entrance off I-70, with its host of hotels and restaurants, isn’t rolling out an ideal welcome mat to the city, some contend.

The city and business owners along the route funded the beautification of the interstate underpass with murals of wild horses. The Horizon Drive Business Improvement District plans to create a more friendly route with roundabouts at intersections, medians and crosswalks. BID officials will find out next month if they will receive a $5 million grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation to begin the project’s first phase.

If granted, the panhandling issue may be resolved as roundabouts are constructed, said Clark Atkinson, the former chairman of the BID.

“People won’t stop (to give money) because it’s not safe to stop,” he said.

Atkinson said he’s noticed a number of panhandlers near the off-ramps this summer.

“They obviously stand there because it’s successful,” Atkinson said. “That’s why they’re standing there and not at the corner of Third and Elm.”


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