Last Sunday many of us observed around our church a family of four with signs asking for assistance. Some of us gave them money and others spoke with them and invited them in. We were able to get them to come in and they joined us in the worship center for the sermon portion of the 11 am service. After the service, staff interviewed them and had them fill out and sign our standard benevolence request forms that also give their consent for us to check their information with other agencies including law enforcement. We then put the family up for the night in a local motel, gave them sufficient money for food, and asked them to return the next morning to meet with our regular staff benevolence person for possible additional assistance.
On Monday morning the Belton Police Department checked out the family and confirmed that they were part of one of many groups who are going around using similar approaches, using their veryyoung children to get unsuspecting and caring people like us to give them money. This family had previously been arrested in Alabama for similar conduct and was on parole from immigration pending a court hearing in Houston in early August. Based on this information, staff went with the BPD officers to the motel and told the family that God loves them, we love them and care about them and their children, but we will not allow them continue to scam our people.
Last Sunday about 12:30 pm off-duty BPD officers observed another couple with the same method of operation, including a young child soliciting money in the Market Heights area. They are probably part of the group “working the area”. Last month, BPD officers checked out a very similar family soliciting in our area and, when given permission to search their van, found cases of food and diapers, over $800 in cash and numerous motel swipe cards in the vehicle. On another occasion, a BPD officer led a similar family to Helping Hands where they were given food. The next day he observed them panhandling again near Walmart.
In the future if you see families like this soliciting, please contact your local police force and let them make contact and check them out. If the family is truly in need, the officers will help them get plugged in to the right resources, frequently even our church.