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Should I give money to panhandlers?

By Kerry Morrison

June 25, 2014

Eighteen years working on Hollywood Boulevard, and I have struggled with this question myself. I have run the gamut from renting motel rooms for people, to finding jobs, to paying cell phone bills.  However, here is the spot I have landed on, now that I know how many chronic alcoholics call our BID their home. I no longer hand out money.  I will buy a sandwich or a hamburger for someone who is hungry, but no cash?  Why?  Because I have good evidence that this cash is being used for alcohol or drugs. This year we are going to tackle head-on our problem with chronic inebriates in the Hollywood Entertainment District and Sunset & Vine BID.  Here is some research we’ve done.

  • Our BID Patrol, who can initiate private person’s arrests for infractions they see happen in front of them, have identified 46 people who are repeat offenders for drinking in public.  Over the past two years, we have engaged some of these people close to 70 times.
  • We’ve had three people (that we know of) die from alcohol poisoning in the past several months.  Others that have gone missing…we can only surmise.
  • Nearly 6 out of 10 private person’s arrests that we initiate in any given year are for drinking in public.

Why are people drinking in public?  There are three factors that seem to factor into this situation: (1)     There are plenty of businesses that sell very cheap liquor.  By cheap liquor, we are talking single-cans of beer that might sell for less than two dollars, or small flasks of vodka that sell for less than three dollars. (2)    There are plenty of pedestrians who will hand out money. (3)    There are few if any intervention programs in Hollywood that help people end their addictions. We have organized a Task Force for 2014 to look at how we can reduce the incidence of drinking in public in both the Sunset & Vine BID and the Hollywood Entertainment District.  On this Task Force we have representatives from the Los Angeles Fire Department, LAPD, City Attorney’s office, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), Council District 13 and the BID Patrol.  At our last meeting, we also had two owners of area liquor stores who are working with us to minimize sales to our homeless neighbors who suffer from alcohol addiction.  Stay tuned to this blog for regular updates on what we are up to.

Kerry Morrison serves as the executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, a position she has held since the inception of the Hollywood Entertainment District BID in 1996.  Prior to coming to Hollywood, she spent 14 years in public policy and senior management roles at the California Association of REALTORS in Los Angeles.  She has a MPA in Public Administration from USC and is a graduate of Santa Clara University.  She also participated in the Coro Southern CA Fellows program in 1980-81.  She has a passion for ending homelessness, and serves as Mayoral appointee to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), serves on the United Way Home for Good Business Leaders Task Force, and on the board for The Center at Blessed Sacrament.  She loves to knit, collects fountain pens and eschews loud music in restaurants.

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