After reading the recent U-B article about the panhandling turf argument last week, I feel compelled to comment on the whole issue of panhandling in Walla Walla.
We are constantly faced with these individuals standing at the exits of fast food restaurants, grocery stores, street corners and even at the exit of the church I attend. Their signs indicate “anything helps,” “hungry,” etc.
I know that the good people of Walla Walla have big hearts and are very generous, so seeing these people can certainly make you question whether you should help. I have witnessed that many people do respond.
My purpose in writing this letter is to provide information about the many services available to those in need in Walla Walla County. No one in Walla Walla County need ever go hungry.
There are numerous organizations such as the Christian Aid Center, Salvation Army, St. Paul’s and many others that provide free breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year. Blue Mountain Action Council offers mobile food banks during the summer months that are open to anyone. Helpline, which has been around for 45 years, provides access to local food banks. The Walla Walla Senior Center offers a daily lunch to those over 60 who cannot afford to pay.
Additional services are available to anyone who comes to Helpline. Helpline uses a screening process where an applicant’s information about family, income, expenses and living circumstances is collected; Helpline is able to qualify people for a variety of other services, including clothing vouchers, furniture vouchers and household good vouchers with local charitable organizations such as SonBridge and St. Vincent de Paul.
Helpline also provides free or low-cost bus passes to their clients, as well as personal hygiene items and emergency items such as food, blankets and clothing, to name a few.
Other services in Walla Walla County offered by numerous charitable organizations include assistance for homelessness such as free laundry service, free showers, free mailboxes and the Sleeping Center, sponsored by the Homeless Alliance. Assurance Wireless offers free cellphones to qualifying low-income households. Birthright and Catholic Charities offer assistance for those with infants.
I would like to encourage the people of Walla Walla to consider donating money to one of the many charitable organizations that they might otherwise give to panhandlers. I would also encourage anyone interested to visit Helpline and they will provide you with a list of services available in the county. You can give this information to anyone who approaches you for money.