STOCKTON, Calif. - The city of Stockton has installed signs around the downtown off-ramps that are meant to discourage loitering and panhandling. Police can give people citations for not following the rules.
But an authority on Stockton homeless issues said the signs may be making the problem of street begging worse, not better.
"It actually perpetuates it. The poor don't have ways to pay the fine. They get fined, but there's no way to pay it. In some ways, it encourages panhandling," Edward Figueroa, the Director of St. Mary's Dining Room, said.
One man on the streets of Stockton said he's been cited five times for panhandling. But he said the fines aren't paid.
"I ain't got no money, they know that," said 47-year-old George Steffey.
Figueroa said panhandling could be mitigated if people stopped handing over spare change and instead gave cards with information about St. Mary's and other social service agencies. Thousands of those cards are being printed by St. Mary's and other groups.
"If we make panhandling not lucrative, that's the best way to diminish panhandling. They may be more likely to reach out to support organizations that can provide them greater assistance," Figueroa said.