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Although homelessness is a real problem, sometimes people take advantage of the kindness of others. That’s what Jeremy Ellis said his motivation is behind his cleanup project.

Ellis took to Facebook on Friday morning to call out for help with a cleanup at the intersection of Loop 286 and Lamar Avenue.

“I had two other people step up and help,” he said. “We cleaned up where panhandlers stand, at the intersection of Lamar and Loop 286. We found lottery tickets, full bottles of water, full plates of rotting food, snacks still packaged and several signs. We even found fast food, whole and unfinished, along with bottles of urine.”

Ellis said after doing some research, he said he believes most of the men standing at the intersection are not, in fact, living on the streets.

“I was tired of seeing the trash,” Ellis said. “I would have never done this if it wasn’t for them trashing that intersection. I never really paid attention. But I did some research and found out that every one of them have been taking advantage of folks. They’re not homeless.”

Homeless scams are nothing new, and are disappointing to say the least, as they sway people away from contributing to those who truly do need it. An alternative to giving people on the streets money would be to give to local organizations who do help those in need, such as the New Hope Center or the United Way of Lamar County. With both organizations, the money stays local and helps those in need.

Click here to go to the New Hope website and donate. 

Click here to go to the United Way of Lamar County website and donate.

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“I personally stop and talk with people standing on the side of the road,” said Tanteta Scott of New Hope Center. “Each time it is different when I talk with them, but I always offer help. People will often not show up, even with the offer of help, and that’s a sad fact. Panhandling and homelessness are two different things. I work with individuals who are homeless, and they’re grateful, and sometimes panhandlers will prey upon the kindness of others and that gives the true homeless people a band name.”

There is more than one official definition of homelessness. You don’t have to be living in a cardboard box to be considered homeless. Health centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) use the following:

A homeless individual is defined in section 330(h)(5)(A) as “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation. [Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b)]

An individual may be considered to be homeless if that person is “doubled up,” a term that refers to a situation where individuals are unable to maintain their housing situation and are forced to stay with a series of friends and/or extended family members. In addition, previously homeless individuals who are to be released from a prison or a hospital may be considered homeless if they do not have a stable housing situation to which they can return. A recognition of the instability of an individual’s living arrangements is critical to the definition of homelessness. (HRSA/Bureau of Primary Health Care, Program Assistance Letter 99-12, Health Care for the Homeless Principles of Practice)

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