NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Panhandlers often describe themselves as homeless and hungry, what they don't always tell you is some of them have a criminal history.
The 22News I-Team continued our investigation into panhandling and found your donations could be supporting illegal activity.
In this economy you want to know any loose change you give someone is going where you think it is, so we did some research for you.
You've see them on the corner, panhandlers holding signs reading homeless and hungry.
What they don't always advertise is sometimes there's a darker side to their story.
The 22News I-Team has investigated panhandlers in the past and discovered some of them have cell phones and cars.
After that investigation you the viewers asked us to investigate further, so we did.
To dig even deeper, over the last 5 months, we've approached more panhandlers, started taking names,
and cross-referencing names to police records.
One panhandler in Northampton claims to be drug free.
"Alcohol and drug free, not everyone is on drugs or alcohol it's just very hard right now especially with the economy," she said.
But, our investigation suggests a slightly different story, we found that name in Springfield police records for a recent arrest for possession of cocaine.
That's just the beginning.
We came across another woman who claims she has cancer and needs your generous donations to pay for radiation.
"All my money goes toward my treatment and my medical costs and my co-pays and it's just really hard," she said. "Obviously, you know, I'm out here for a reason you know, I have no hair."
We took her name and did our research.
Laws prevent us from checking her medical history but we did find the name matched a recent arrest for possession of cocaine and a mug shot that appears to be a woman with hair.
We also came across people like Christina Weibel who will gladly offer up the skeletons in her closet.
"I used to be out here doing the same thing for drugs, I won't deny that, but now it's totally different. I'm just trying to survive now," Weibel said.
The 22News I-Team brought our findings to Friends of the Homeless Executive Director Bill Miller who says arrest and criminal records among panhandlers are to be expected.
"Well, think about it, if you end up on the street panhandling of course there's skeleton's in the closet, something is driving you out there," Miller said.
Miller says panhandlers typically are not homeless, important for generous donors to keep in mind.
On the other hand, he says begging for money is embarrassing and the last resort for a number of people and what little you do give may have a bigger impact than you even know.
"For the young people, if you think about it, if you're addicted to drugs, cocaine by the age of 24 what came before that? It's hard to imagine it was a happy life. I would make a case for giving to the younger people because you're sort of, at least encouraging them by saying someone cares about you. I think that's important," Miller added.
This is not to discourage you from giving as giving is a way to show someone you care.
However, if it is homelessness specifically you are trying to fight, you may want to think about giving to a homeless organization.