There is a difference between moochers and panhandlers. Moochers are people you know that don't pay their fair share of something, and panhandlers accost you and beg you for money, food or even gas for that matter.

Thank goodness I don't have friends who mooch off of me but I doubt if anyone reading this article hasn't had some trials and tribulations with panhandlers and freeloaders. Just the other day, a young panhandler hit me up asking for "change" while I was at the corner gas station at Green Street and Tehachapi Boulevard.

Giving panhandlers money, food or gasoline only encourages them to leach off people even more. My conscience tells me I'd like to help them, but who really wants to strike up a conversation with a total stranger you don't know to find out if they are really needy?

Yes! I've acquiesced on occasion and have given people money who look scroungy and down and out, but only if they don't come up to me asking for a handout. My pat answer to panhandlers/freeloaders is to be firm but friendly, and say, "No."

Loves and the Flying J Truck Stop are places where I really get hit hard by panhandlers. The stories these people tell me at both truck stops are pitiful, but my rule of thumb is "Don't give them anything."

Giving them something for doing nothing only creates dependency, and down the road, they'll probably have a real tough time learning to stand on their own two feet.

Dennis Tope, Tehachapi