To give or not to give?

That question, concerning panhandlers and money, front and center as the number of homeless men, women and children across the state continues to rise.

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They’re on street corners scattered across the city, panhandlers asking for money.

This woman gets out of her car, walks across the snow on Saddle Creek, to help out.

A few years ago, I talked with Jeff, and this wasn’t the inner city, this was West Omaha.

Jeff, Omaha Panhandler: “I probably make about 70.”

Joe Jordan, NCN: “$70 in six hours."

Enter the Douglas County Sheriff who is urging folks not to, that’s right not to, spare even a dime.

Sheriff Aaron Hanson, Douglas County (R): “Our hearts want to help that person, but the sad reality is if we give those individuals cash there’s a very high likelihood that that cash will be used to buy drugs or alcohol.”

The sheriff putting his just say no campaign front and center.

Encouraging folks to hand a panhandler one of these cards, available at the sheriff’s office. On one side any number of helpers, on the other side do’s and don’ts:

Do offer support and information, "Do Not Ever Give Cash."

Tamara Dwyer, Omaha Homeless Service Coordinator: “It’s really complex, right.”

Tamara Dwyer, heads-up Mayor Jean Stothert’s efforts to fight homelessness, and she tells me when it comes to panhandlers, “Don’t feel obligated” to give, but also, “Do what they feel is best.” There’s, “No right or wrong answer.”

Joe Jordan, NCN: “The city of Omaha has a different view of this, told me that it's OK to give them money.

Sheriff Hanson: “It’s obviously not illegal, but I think if you talk to the real experts especially if you talk to…”

Joe Jordan: “You don’t think she’s an expert?”

Sheriff Hanson: “Well I’m saying if you talk to the experts in the field that actually manage homeless shelters, consistently those individuals will typically say that giving cash directly to panhandlers isn’t helpful.”

But there are others, significant others, giving the cash handout the go ahead.

In a recent interview with an Italian magazine, Pope Francis argued that giving money to someone begging on the street is “always right.”

The Pope’s comments elaborated on the Catholic radio show, “Busted Halo.”

Radio host: “The magazine asked him what’s the right thing to do when people are begging on the street. And the Pope says, ‘one thing people might tell themselves to feel better about not giving anything is well what if I give him money and he spends it on a glass of wine.’ But the Pope says, ‘If a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s OK.’”

Joe Jordan: “The Pope has even said it’s okay to be helpful. He even said it’s okay to give them a glass of wine.”

Sheriff Hanson: “Well I don’t know if its legal to give someone an open glass of wine on the streets. But everyone is entitled to their opinion on this.  I think what’s important is the public discussion.”

That as homelessness across Nebraska is up 10 percent the last few years.

The latest numbers find nearly 2,500 without a roof over their head.

Omaha and Lincoln account for 1,900 hundred, the other 600 scattered across the state.