LEEDS, Mass. (WWLP) - A 22News I-Team follow-up.
We've investigated the world of panhandling in the past and discovered that not all the people asking for your money have nothing.
Quite the opposite, we found some have cars and cell phones.
Now, the 22News I-Team digs deeper into whether homeless veterans are who they say they are.
It's hard to look away when someone claiming to be a homeless veteran is standing outside your car window.
But if you ask Willie Ledbetter, who works for Soldier On in Leeds and has made a living out of getting homeless veterans off the streets and into a shelter, he'll tell you not all signs tell a true story.
"I'm very familiar with people holding signs saying they're homeless veterans but I know 99% of them are not veterans," Ledbetter said.
Ledbetter, who says he was a homeless veteran himself a number of years ago, watched a recent 22News I-Team investigation in which we found panhandlers claiming to be poor and homeless actually had things like cars and cell phones.
He wasn't surprised, in fact, he says while many people on the streets do need financial help, it's easy to tell who's lying about being a veteran.
"I approach them and I ask, are you a real veteran, oh yeah, do you have your DD214, do you have your medical ID card, they don't have it and they clam up and they don't want to talk because they know I know they're not a real veteran," Ledbetter said.
Soldier On President and CEO John Downing told 22News there are adequate resources available to keep veterans off the streets of Western Massachusetts.
Downing says the likelihood of there being homeless veterans in Massachusetts is less likely than in surrounding states because in our state there's a law that all communities must have some form of veteran services.
He says there are veterans who are either confused or angry or, who make the decision to leave shelters.
Those who choose to stay on the streets, he says, have simply decided to make their living this way.
"We run a program without rules, so we don't throw people out," Downing said. "When someone is out panhandling day after day after day at the same location, rest assured it's a successful hustle for them, and rest assured, what's on the sign is probably not true."
If you want to know you are supporting a veteran you're encouraged to give to an organization.