HOLLAND, Mich — A new anti-panhandler group along the lakeshore is planning to hold a rally this weekend.
Earlier this week, a Facebook page was created in which people show their encounters with panhandlers, who they say are lying about being in need. Videos and photos posted to the page West Michigan Hardly Homeless Panhandlers show the confrontations.
The group posted the following on its Facebook page Thursday morning:
ATTENTION: West Michigan Hardly Homeless Panhandler’s invite you to join us this Saturday 8/2/14 from 11am – 2pm for a rally to bring awareness to the Holland area to Stop giving change at the corners and bring real change to Holland by giving at a shelter.. Bring your signs and join us on James and 31 (meet by big lots) to spread this awareness. We will have news coverage of this event. The bigger the better. If you can’t stay the entire time please stop by and join us and show your support. We hope you will be there. Let’s be the change that Holland needs! spread the word!! “BRING A CANNED GOOD TO DONATE”
In some of the videos posted by West Michigan Hardly Homeless Panhandlers, one woman is seen following a man on a South Haven sidewalk. “You go city from city and try to scam from people,” she tells him.
The panhandler is heard telling her to leave him alone, but she responds by saying, “I will, as soon as you leave our town.”
With more than 700 people joining the Facebook group, within hours of its creation, FOX 17 reached out to the administrator, Mike Ochoa, to see why citizens are taking matters into their own hands.
“The whole purpose of it is to make [our community aware of] fraudulent panhandlers,” Ochoa said.
As of Wednesday morning, July 30, there were more than 2,400 members.
Ochoa said two of the men seen in the Facebook videos are related. They’ve been seen in Holland, South Haven and Grand Haven, and he added that while one of them is photographed holding a sign that reads, “Homeless,” they aren’t.
In another video, Ochoa is seen getting out of his car in Grand Haven and running up to a panhandler, who is also inside a truck. “So, how’s it feel to be hardly homeless?” Ochoa asks. “With a nice truck…nice truck and everything…all the stuff in the back and everything, how’s it feel to be hardly homeless?”
The man is seen flipping Ochoa off before the video ends.
What could be called paparazzi for panhandlers first began earlier in July when a man took a picture of himself next to a panhandler. He was holding a sign claiming the man wasn’t in need.
While the panhandlers aren’t breaking any laws, Ochoa and other vocal members of the community said they want them to leave their neighborhoods.
FOX 17 tried finding the men in the videos to get their take on being followed but didn’t have any luck.
We also reached out to the South Haven Police Department where some of the videos were shot but didn’t hear back by Tuesday evening.