UNDERCOVER INVESTIGATION: Panhandling in east Idaho
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IDAHO FALLS — What happens when three different people stand on three different street corners and ask you for money?
A lot of rejection, some close calls, some really generous donations, a visit from the police and some unexpected surprises.
More on that in a minute but first, I want you to meet John Perrenoud.
He’s been living on the streets for five years and stands outside the Ammon Walmart nearly every day with a tattered sign asking for cash.
“This corner’s the best corner. A lot of people come in and out of here and you don’t get bothered by the cops so you’re safe,” Perrenoud told EastIdahoNews.com.
Perrenoud said he was born in Arco and his family died so he moved to Idaho Falls. He lives in a makeshift campsite most of the year and survives by panhandling, eating at the soup kitchen and sleeping in shelters on cold nights.
Perrenoud said when people tell him he “should just get a job,” he responds by saying everyone has to survive and he’s been trying to become employed for several months.
It’s hard to know exactly how many men, women and children are homeless in Idaho but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates 2,247 people were without a home in 2016 with 304 living in east Idaho.
Not everyone who is homeless panhandles and not everyone who begs for money is homeless but more people are standing on east Idaho street corner asking for cash compared to a few years ago.
How much money are they making? Are east Idahoans generous? We decided to find out.
Three EastIdahoNews.com employees agreed to go undercover and panhandle with the knowledge that every penny they earned would be donated to the Haven homeless shelter in Idaho Falls.
Reporters Natalia Hepworth and Myles Primm, along with special events director Ronda Hobbs, each spent an hour on different street corners asking for money.
The results were surprising and each say their views on panhandling have changed.
Watch the entire investigation in the video player above.