Panhandler: 'I just don't know what else to do'
'I just don't know what else to do,' the 22-year-old former Bedford man said.
O'Neil can often be seen on the triangular median near the Granite Street Bridge holding a worn 'Homeless Please Help' sign since his girlfriend kicked him out about three months ago.
He doubts the city's appeal to the public to stop giving money to panhandlers will make much difference in his life.
'They don't really help anyway ... They don't really understand what you go through every day to get a meal. They look at you like you're a loser,' O'Neil said.
At best, panhandling 'helps me, time to time, to eat,' he said.
O'Neil, who graduated from an alternative high school for learning-disabled youth, said the longest he ever held a job was a dish-washing stint at an area country club in 2009-2010.
Not having a home, he said, puts a crimp in his job-hunting efforts.
'Since I have no clothes, it's really hard to apply for a job. I feel like they look at me like I'm an idiot,' said O'Neil, who was dressed in cut-off jeans shorts and a T-shirt.
City officials discourage people from giving money in part to steer panhandlers toward homeless shelters and centers that serve the homeless.
O'Neil said he tries to avoid homeless shelters.
'I get really bad anxiety and stuff at places like that. It basically makes me freak out,' he explained.
He said he tries to sleep at friends' houses when he can. Otherwise, he sleeps in the woods and stairways. He said he cannot rely on his family for help.
O'Neil said he didn't know the Manchester Homeless Services Center is open weekdays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help people just like him.
He said he would consider going to the 140 Central St. center, which offers the homeless showers, lunch, coffee, a place to wash clothes and computer equipment to do job searches.