Joseph Neill, owner of the Electric Hospital, has been coping with panhandlers for years.
Neill sees a lot of them, because his business is close to a popular corner near Coos Bay's Fred Meyer store. Neill said a panhandler can make more than $100 in an hour at "Freddie's Corner."
Panhandlers can be a problem for nearby merchants, because they leave trash and make customers uncomfortable. Neill knows some of them are professional beggars. One morning last week, a man held a sign saying: "Why lie? Need beer."
But Neill also knows some panhandlers have genuine troubles. Like many local people, he would like to help them.
Panhandling is a communitywide problem, and it needs to be addressed on a large scale, Neill said. He likes the idea of an ordinance similar to one enacted in Roseburg. It prohibits passing money from a vehicle window.
Another idea he's promoting is a brochure listing services, with vouchers for some of them. A map of the organizations' locations would be on the back.
Community members could give the brochures instead of money, Neill said. Most of the vouchers are for services that are free already. The community would have to raise money for others, such as a meal at the Crossroads Community Cafe in North Bend.
The vouchers also are a way to track what's working and who's doing it, Neill said.
He acknowledges one key component is still missing - transportation. The services are too scattered for people to walk to them.
Another community member working on the homeless issue is Susan Fox.
Fox helped open Crossroads Cafe, where anyone can purchase a hot, nutritious meal for $1.50. People can buy meal coupons to give to panhandlers.
The community should take a fresh look at how it deals with homeless people, Fox said. She suggests setting small goals and dividing them among various organizations.
"It's the culture of how we treat people," she said. "I think we all have to listen more to each other, and then we have to stop being afraid."