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Down And Out: ‘Will Trade For Diapers And Milk’

The mother of two teenagers and two adult children said she was in Lake Elsinore from Hemet to avoid embarrassing her kids.

"Rhonda" on the corner of Central and Cambern avenues in Lake Elsinore. Sept. 18, 2013.  Photo/Toni McAllister
"Rhonda" on the corner of Central and Cambern avenues in Lake Elsinore. Sept. 18, 2013. Photo/Toni McAllister

A Hemet woman who says she is in a desperate financial situation resorted to trading toys for milk and diapers Wednesday morning in Lake Elsinore. 

Standing on the corner of Central and Cambern avenues, a woman who asked to only be identified as “Rhonda” surrounded herself with dolls and small stuffed animals. Holding a sign that read, "Trade toys for diapers, food & milk," woman said she is doing the best she can to make ends meet.

“I don’t have any money,” she said.

The mother of two teenagers and two adult children said she was in Lake Elsinore from Hemet to avoid embarrassing her kids.

“They hate that I do this,” she admitted, pointing to her late model gold Saturn sedan that appeared to have a rear door taped on.

Rhonda shares a rental house with her teens and one adult daughter, along with the daughter’s boyfriend and their baby. Rhonda said she receives $590 in monthly welfare benefits and she doesn’t have a job. Her husband left her for another woman and she hasn’t heard from him, she said.

“Nobody wants to employ me,” she continued. “I’m missing teeth, I have a felony record.”

She admits to drug abuse, but said she’s been clean for three years. She also confessed to a past history of prostitution and shoplifting.

Her gig on the Lake Elsinore street corner Wednesday was learned: Her mom did it before she died. 

She told her kids, “I have to try what Grandma did.”

Roberto September 18, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Breaking the cycle of entitlement, drug use, criminal activity should be a priority in our society. Handouts only create more of the same. Programs that require these folks to be somewhere instead of sending them a check in the mail and drug testing for accepting these benefits. Workfare, not welfare now
July Schwartz September 18, 2013 at 04:27 PM
She use to stand on Haun rd. in Menifee by the target shopping center.
Bd September 18, 2013 at 04:40 PM
@Roberto, absolutely right. At the risk of sounding like a monster, I feel that anyone on Government handouts should agree to be on birthcontrol until that person is able to take care of him/herself. My concern is for the babies that are brought into that bad situation, and as you stated, the cycle of poor choices that they're exposed to.
Joseph Morabito September 18, 2013 at 04:43 PM
It must be a difficult thing to be in that position... but she made the life she has with countless poor decisions over many years. I'd bet that she was warned by her family members, and friends, that she was heading the wrong direction in life many times and just ignored the words. I don't have the answers, but I know they don't include me handing her money.
Roberto September 18, 2013 at 04:53 PM
We will never wipe out poverty and crime. As much disdain as I have for government intervention there are two specific areas we need government intervention. The first is mental health care that is now administered by the criminal justice system and Workfare which is needed to replace Welfare, Wic, EBT etc. etc. Popping out babies and using abortion and a method of birth control needs to stopped including sterilization incentives for anyone with more that to children along with JOB training, not basket weaving. Uniforms in school, vouchers are also part of creating an inclusive education system.
Lynda StarWriter September 18, 2013 at 04:55 PM
It appears she needs diapers and milk for the grown children residing with her -- and the baby, too. Regardless of her felonious past, addictions, no teeth -- fill in the dehumanizing blank -- social and community programs exist (food pantries, Salvation Army, Goodwill, local churches) will GIVE her food, clothing, basic job skills and education for an evolving, better life. Should she choose to ACCEPT the gifts foreboding long-term change rather than others' loose change, well, she can keep the toys she's using as transparent ploy. Easy, breezy thoughts and sundries her way...
Alek J Hidell September 18, 2013 at 05:07 PM
If this creature had her way, she'd have her toddlers on the street next to her. California gives plenty of assistance-- This is for drug money. Soon enough as US declines into a third world nation we'll have them crippling their kids to increase their begging revenue. Just like streetcorners in India.
Lake Elsinore Mom September 18, 2013 at 05:11 PM
So true that she put herself in the situation that she is in but poor babies! I NEVER give out money because I don't want my hard earned money to buy drugs or alcohol but I do buy food and they take it with sooo much gratitude. I've seen this lady before and I asked her what size diapers then went to costco and bought them. She was thankful. She touched me because of the kids not because of her. There is food pantries and my HS daughter has volunteered for HOPE but they are even in need of donations. People line up since the night before but not everybody gets food because they run out. No matter what way you see her history its just too bad kids are suffering and go without. I wish I had more to give but we are all having hard times with this economy. Don't judge her we all make mistakes. I just hope she really has been clean for 3 yrs and she finds a job to get her back on her feet for those kids sake.
Jamie Dillinger September 18, 2013 at 05:29 PM
What about her adult daughter who has the baby? Why isn't she working? If the mom is getting welfare, I assume the daughter with the child is receiving welfare as well. What about the adult boyfriend who is living with them? Why isn't he working? Too many adults living under one roof and no one is working?
Brandie Miranda Greany September 18, 2013 at 05:33 PM
This woman has floated around here, Murrieta, Menifee, temecula, etc for months! I don't buy her story one bit! How did she afford the gas to get all the way to Lake Elsinore? Maybe that money could have bought her teenage children the diapers they apparently need. Where was she planning on keeping the milk cold while she continued to pan handle. I'm pretty sure there are respectable jobs that don't care if she has missing teeth or not.
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT September 18, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Where is the Lake Elsinore Code Enforcement panhandling is against the law in Lake Elsinore. A few definitions of panhandling: 1.ask with emotion: to ask somebody for something such as a favor in a heartfelt, humble, or even humiliating way 2.ask for charity: to ask people for gifts of money or food, especially in the street 3.sit up and ask for food: to ask for food by sitting up and holding out the front legs Now the woman lives in an apartment with her children and one of her daughters boyfriends and baby also lives with them, if she is on government aid then this is against the law. CPS should be notified of this woman and I would like to know if someone has talked with Helmet PD did they run her out of Hemet for the same thing? She was driving a Saturn with the door tapped onto the car, does she have auto insurance?
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT September 18, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Personally, I am sick of see these panhandlers cluttering up the streets of Lake Elsinore. The one that gets me the most if the woman at Costco or Target who has a sign I am deaf and mute and I can't feed my children, she has two little kids with her. One day I said I will be calling the Police and CPS so they can help you and your poor children, needless to say she ran off and was cussing me out at the same time. ROTFLMAO
Lake Elsinore Mom September 18, 2013 at 06:20 PM
@Jamie- I was thinking the same too. Both my teenagers had jobs, plyayed sports and went to HS, but this was before I read this article about how many adults lived there. I don't regret it though because it was diapers for the babies.
SA September 18, 2013 at 06:20 PM
Felony = no welfare … in my book … No one forced this lady to hook and drugs… Tooooo bad she has kids as that is the killer … I wish her kids well …
Samantha Hagen-Avery September 18, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Wow! everyone has their own opinion on why this woman is asking for Food, diapers and Milk, but until you have been in this situation you will NEVER know what it is like... and it can happen to anyone at anytime! My husband and I have both been laid off and we are barely hanging on....But even though I do not have any $$ to spare, if I would have seen this woman on the corner I would have went out of my way and gotten her 2 gallons of milk, a sandwich and some diapers.. Because I believe in paying it forward. God Bless her I hope her life gets better.
Dog September 18, 2013 at 06:35 PM
I've seen this women working this scam in a couple places this past month...
Danielle C. September 18, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Diapers can be sold easier or returned to a store for credit. I know there are people in need but for our area to enable people to make a full time career out of panhandling is ridiculous. I watch sign holders work same corners as panhandlers. You are going to stand out there, why not make an honest living waving a sign? The simple answer is that panhandling PAYS MORE, easy, and they can still collect state benefits because they don't claim as income. I called LE sheriff to ask if panhandling was still illegal, they said yes but until we complain enough to city they just don't go after panhandlers. So sad. I hate having to explain to my child why the same people are out daily with their signs instead of working. Again, I'm speaking of the career panhandlers like this lady, 2nd generation, making it seem like family tradition to her little grand kids as if it is the right thing to do.
Joanie September 18, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Yep, it takes a bit of gas money to get from point A to point B. Sign making ... a very nice one at that, require the purchase of supplies to do so. And somehow I don't see an ex-addict/felon having spent all of that money (back in the day) on toys when it would have gone towards their habit. So if as some of you say she's been doing this for quite some time, she must be purchasing (?) new ones to sell, otherwise she'd have run out of them by now. That alone would make it a "business" and not just selling what's in the closet to make ends meet. And what about what appears to be eye catching shoes/slippers! Btw, purchasing milk, food and diapers in lieu of handing out cash is always the better choice, IF they're really needed. But who knows if they truly do go towards making ends meet or are more than likely, resold. There's always a means to an end if you're savvy enough to know what strings to pull. ... Just saying!
KW September 18, 2013 at 07:36 PM
She was doing the same thing about a year ago at the Crossings in Corona. Scammer.
Gale September 18, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Linda Starwriter, you are absolutely right. There are programs in every town and city that will train you and help you to find a job. There are also many, many churches that operate food banks, will help with utilities and rent and other things as well. They will even give you diapers and clothes. Sounds as if she hasn't even tried to find any help. It's out there, all you have to do is look.
Joanie September 18, 2013 at 07:50 PM
@KW, That's my take on it too. I hate being so skeptical, because there truly are a lot of honest, needy people out there struggling to make ends meet. I always think "there but for the grace of god go I". But I'm just not getting that warm, fuzzy feeling about this one. So if I'm tempted to go out and buy diapers, etc, I think I'll take them to one of the drop off points that should be opening up soon with all of the holidays approaching. There can never be enough donations and I'm sure they'll find their way to the right families.
Spacin Jason September 19, 2013 at 01:52 AM
HAHAHA she threw in housecleaners needed. She is not panhandling, she is putting together "The Recipe" I will bet all of those older kids and "boyfriend" have holes in their dental work too.
Roberto September 19, 2013 at 02:11 AM
Went to eat take out one time and while in line, a guy walks up and ask for a dollar and twenty cents. This was his way of me not telling him I don't have change knowing I would. He got my point quick and left abruptly.
Norma Eich September 19, 2013 at 08:32 AM
The first thing she should do is kick out the daughter's boyfriend. Why is she supporting him? He needs to get a job and live on his own. Secondly, the daughter needs to get a job. The teens could probably find some part-time work, too. As others have suggested, going to a church will be helpful in getting food, clothes and diapers. It will also help her connect with productive people who can help her in many other ways.
Christine Henry September 19, 2013 at 11:23 AM
She has also been seen on the corner of Irvine Blvd. and Jamboree in Irvine.....quite a distance from her said to be home base in the article, it takes a bit of gas for that little jaunt to Irvine, which costs money. I hate to be doubter and in my heart would like to have the faith to believe this woman, however, there is room for question. Her best step as mentioned above is to seek assistance the safe and pragmatic way, a church.
Renee September 19, 2013 at 11:35 AM
I hope this story brings "her" story to the public eye and people STOP giving her free-B's... I am very impressed with the writer of this article mentioning the ADULT "children" at home and the boyfriend... Good way to show us people that feel bad when we don't give in to beggars that we do not need to feel guilty for what we have and work for.. We do not need to feel bad for what we do not want to give away when someone stands on a street corner with a good pick up line... I once met a group of beggars that stand behind Wal-Mart in Redlands by the freeway... I was helping a group that went out on Holidays to pass out sack lunches to homeless. They all gathered to see what we had; only a few took the lunches but they spoke openly with us about their situations. One of them had an apt and they told us they make a lot of money doing this, and one guy even showed us all the cash he had in his pocket; it was more than I had. They openly admitted to doing drugs. I know there are people in need that we should help... What's hard is knowing the difference between someone like the people I mentioned and those truly in need.
Roberto September 19, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Years ago when I was young and naïve, a couple approached me with a gas can asking for a couple of dollars while I was pumping gas. gave them a couple of dollars which they took and I later seen them down the road drinking in public. Lesson I learned is many of these people are street wise and pick your charities carefully. There are scams everywhere trying to separate you and your hard earned dollars. They even sometimes appear to be legitimate like the Scam being run by this woman.
Josh September 19, 2013 at 12:49 PM
The erosion of "community" prevents us from knowing who is truly in need and who is scamming. How many of you really know your neighbor and if they were in need how many of them would express it after seeing the prevailing attitudes. Is a tough situation and I don't wish it on anyone but we are all susceptible. Scammers exist because people actually give them money, if they didn't they would go away. Stop giving them money and donate it to the organizations who are set up to help the legitimate.
Erin September 19, 2013 at 01:23 PM
I saw her in Lake Forest a couple of months ago too!
Jessica Ann Lopez December 23, 2013 at 05:15 PM
We tried giving her diapers and she stated, 'I prefer money mam." Yup she is scamming.

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