More than meets the eye: Man in viral panhandling video does need help

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A video of a panhandler taking his day's collections and climbing into a very nice pick-up truck is creating quite a stir on social media. Passers-by have been shaming him and posting videos online. So far, this video has been watched on Facebook almost 200,000 times.

But it turns out there's more to this story than meets the eye. The man is a veteran who has come upon some hard times.

The video was recorded Sunday morning by Nick Zarou and has since been shared thousands of times.

"It was just a little puzzling," said Zarou.

Zarou was working on the parking lot at the corner of 28th Street and East Paris Avenue in Grand Rapids when he saw the man on the corner with a sign asking for money.

"I noticed that he's going towards the only car in the parking lot and it just took off from there," said Zarou.

Zarou, along with the hundreds of people commenting on the video, says it didn't appear that the man was in need of financial help.

"You're not homeless if you're getting into a brand new truck," said Zarou. "I work very hard for my money and I work sun up to sun down. It’s very upsetting to see someone that has probably a better retirement plan than me, probably made better money throughout my whole lifetime, which is good for him, but there’s other ways to get money.”

FOX 17 decided to track down the man in the video and get his side of the story. It turns out, he's not homeless, but he also never claimed to be on his sign. The sign simply stated he was a military veteran in need of help.

FOX 17 went to the man's home on Tuesday night. He didn't wish to speak on camera, but says he lost his job a few weeks ago and he does need help. He says he doesn't own the truck he was driving, but is still paying it off. He added he can't survive on the $300 a week he's getting in assistance. He also proved his veteran status by showing his VA card.

The man is not being identified because he's not breaking the law.

After finding out the man's story, Zarou tells FOX 17 he feels sorry for the situation he's currently in, but still doesn't agree with him panhandling for money.

If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of assistance, contact the West Michigan Veteran's Assistance Program at (616)-719-9408 or visit their website.

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