VANCOUVER, Wash. – Teri Joy knew she had to do something Thursday when she drove by a street corner and saw one of her child's friends begging for money – money, she says, that pays for drugs.
Joy says those kids on street corners holding signs that ask for money don't likely need it for a place to stay or to buy a meal; instead, they're in desperate need to pay for their next fix.
She knows this from her children's experience with drugs. She says her kids took to the street corner to beg for money to buy them.
Heroin had taken over two of her children's lives – a daughter, whom Joy says is clean now, but also a son, whom she hasn't heard from for a while.
She wants it to stop. Specifically, she wants drivers to stop giving kids begging for money a handout.
So she went back to that corner, Northeast Andresen and Fourth Plain, where she saw her child's friend. She went armed with her own sign: "Please STOP giving my kids money for Heroin!!!!"
But on the other side of the street is a homeless couple who say they depend on people's money for food and clothes.
"That corner over there seems to be pretty lucrative," says panhandler Nathan Hill, referring to the one Joy was standing on with her sign. "This one right here – hit or miss."
Alex Buchanan says Joy is stopping them from getting more money. But they don't deny her message.
"I could say probably eight out of ten times, people out here panhandling are probably going to use it for drugs or alcohol," Buchanan says.
They wish the best for Joy's son but they argue her sign is still a stereotype.
"We come out here to get a few bucks to survive on that's about it," Hill says, admitting he's smokes marijuana but that's it. "I've never done heroin, never done meth, never drank, never done any of that crap."
He says he's never spent money his gotten on the street corners on marijuana.
But Joy isn't budging – not if her message can slow the path of even one dollar becoming one hit.
"These are my kids – they're all my kids, even the ones I don't know," she says. "They're still somebody's kids. There's a mom some place."
Two nonprofits who assist homeless people in the Portland-metro area say there aren't any statistics to really know where the money goes when drivers hand it out their windows. But that's why they advise against it.
They say if people want to help, just give to a nonprofit. They make the resources available well-known.
We drove to Vancouver to check out this story after someone sent us an email. They saw Teri Joy on the street corner and wanted us to tell her story. If there's something you want us to look into, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.