Charlottesville-Area Panhandlers Have Different Stories to Tell
It seems some of the homeless people in the Charlottesville area have found full-time work standing at busy intersections with their hands out.
You may have seen them standing in medians with signs, asking for change or anything that might help. The reasons they do it - and how much money they bring in - vary greatly.
Several people frequent the intersection of Route 250 and Hydraulic Road to panhandle. They say they’ve gotten cash, food, and gift cards from people passing by.
One of them, Mike Clark, was kicked out of his house when he was 13 years old. Ever since, he has been panhandling on and off.
“All I'm trying to do is survive, that's it. I want to pay child support every month,” he said.
Clark wants a job.
"Somebody got some yard work I can do? Somebody got some gutters that need to be cleaned? Somebody got a car that needs to be washed? You know, put me to work," he said. "I'm not looking to make it rich; I'm looking to make some money. Right now this is the only thing that I've got."
But there are several roadblocks in his way.
"I don't have an ID, I don't have a Social Security card, I just recently got my birth certificate after like two and a half years of trying. I got a GED and like a ninth-grade education. I got a criminal record as long as I stand tall,” Clark said.
Clark, like many homeless people in Charlottesville, normally sleeps outside.
Valerie Corns, who shares a tent off Route 250 with her friend Floyd, says she came to Charlottesville to live with her sister when tragedy struck.
"I come out here to be with her, and of course she died. And Floyd took me under his wing, so we've been buddying together,” Corns said.
After two and a half years, she says she's gotten used to the lifestyle, and is thankful for what she does have. Clark, however, wants out of his situation, but he feels trapped.
“It's not something I want to do. I feel like I'm an inch tall holding this sign. This is the last thing I want to do,” Clark said.
With around $25,000 in child support hanging over his head, panhandling is the only guaranteed way he knows to earn a living.
"I can't even fill out tax papers to even get hired at a job. The courts don't want to hear that, the courts want to see the money. I have no other way to do it other than to come out here and do this,” Clark said.
Clark, originally from Culpeper, says what drew him to Charlottesville were the shelters that stay open seven days a week.
Most panhandlers who spoke with NBC29 said they're only trying to survive.
"We make enough to get what we need - that's it. We're not greedy; we even help our friends out if we make a couple extra dollars. We'll buy them a pack of cigarettes or treat them to a hot meal or something,” Corns said.
One man said he makes about $30 a day on average, but most said they make just enough to buy themselves a meal.
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