“I haven’t told many people cause they wouldn’t understand…but dressing up like a homeless person and spending most of a night in Weston Park taught me so much,” says Meyer, adding, “You learn what truly helps the homeless community and what doesn’t.”
What has truly worked is Meyer’s, “Know Where It Goes” (KWIG) program. While giving money to a homeless person may make the giver feel good, Meyer has been told by homeless friends that that’s the last thing that should be done. “We’re all compassionate to the needs of the homeless…but what I learned on the street is that the vast majority of monies given to the homeless go directly to drugs. I actually had one of my homeless friends tell me point blank, ‘Karlee, do not give us money.'”
Meyer says that though the wont to give is a noble impulse, the method in which someone gives is just as important, “Money, given directly to those who are addicted or who haven’t learned to manage money, is essentially wasting money. We have local organizations already in place that vet the needs of the homeless, and these organizations need our support.”
Enter the “Know Where It Goes” program (knowwhereitgoes.com).
The KWIG program brings many organizations together to communicate and address homeless issues across the city. People can give to local agencies that provide permanent solutions to those in need. “I sat down one day and figured out that if we had only 50 full-time panhandlers and they receive $150 a day-which my homeless friends tell me, is a low figure…and you multiply that by 365 days…you would have 2.7 million dollars.”
“For $240,000 a year, Valley Restart takes care of 120 people and provides housing, shelter, food, utilities, and social support. Just think of how all that money given to panhandlers could be better utilized. Think of the massive positive change we could make if we put our change in the right hands,” says Meyer.
While some may see the KWIG Program as uncaring, Meyer sees the program as just the opposite. “I tell people to come follow me when I’m driving around, befriending the homeless, developing trust, and offering solutions. They want to be given a purpose and encouraged. Many organizations in town will take them right off the street and provide all the services they need. I feel this offer is better than my pocket change or buying them a burger. I found out that, among the homeless, Hemet is known as an “easy target”-they know to come here because people are so giving…but all that’s doing is taking advantage of our citizens and attracting more homeless.”
Meyer, who began the Homeless Outreach Program in 2017, has seen a positive change here in Hemet through the KWIG program. “The progress is slow but steady, but that’s fine because this isn’t about overnight success. It’s about the program being as effective as possible, and bringing support not just to the homeless, but to business owners and citizens too. This isn’t about creating dependency… it’s about setting people free to be as self-sufficient as is humanly possible.”
Those who wish to give compassionately are urged to visit www.knowwhereitgoes.com.