SALT LAKE CITY — With seemingly more and more people panhandling up and down the Wasatch Front, the business of begging has become a hot topic. For one Utah family, the issue hits especially close to home.
Robert and Janet Aston have a daughter named Miranda, who is out on the streets every day holding cardboard sign asking for money.
"It's sad to think that it's come down to that," Robert said. "It makes you wonder, as parents, did we do something wrong?"
Miranda has been through broken marriage, has an estranged son, and is now homeless.
"Until she decides she's hit rock bottom and changes, we don't have a relationship," Janet said.
During her first four years of life, Miranda was in and out of foster care. She was a cute little girl with big brown eyes, and the obvious need for a mother.
It's sad to think that it's come down to (panhandling). It makes you wonder, as parents, did we do something wrong?
–Robert Aston, father of panhandler
"I opened the door, came into the foster home, and she came running into my arms screaming, ‘My new mom!'" Janet said, "and from that day I knew she was my daughter."
That is the Miranda the Astons fell in love with so many years ago. She was smart and funny, creative and happy, they said. She could be whoever she wanted to be.
"She struggled in high school," Janet said, "but here at home she was always laughing, always carefree."
But insecurities during her teens is what the Astons say led Miranda to run with the wrong crowd — first dabbling in drugs, then becoming a full on addict.
"Heroin takes over," Robert said. "Once they get addicted to heroin, it's just like heroin consumes them."
Rehab did not work. Therapy did not work.
Miranda eventually moved out, got married and gave birth to a baby boy. But that life was short lived. Miranda left her husband, came back to her parents, and eventually lost custody of her child.
Through it all, Robert said "that's all she's thinking about, is getting heroin."
Miranda could not shake the addiction, so her parents made an incredibly difficult decision.
"I was going to take her to a homeless shelter," Janet said. "When I went to the store and came back, she was gone. So there were no goodbyes, no nothing; she just up and left."
Miranda ended up on the side of the road, standing and begging.
When the KSL investigative team found and approached her recently, Miranda said very little at first. But she soon opened up to our producer with a story we knew was not true.
"It's all I have, I don't have any family here," she said. "If I don't do this right now I'll have to sleep outside, and I really don't want my son to have to sleep outside anymore."
"That is the forte of an addict, is lies," Robert said.
When asked what he thought or felt when he saw her on the street for the first time, all he could say was "Why?"
Looking at Miranda now, it's hard to believe the woman behind the sign was once that same little girl so desperate for a family. Life doesn't always turn out the way we think, but it's hard to imagine anyone dreaming of a life of begging on the streets.
"One day you hope this addict will become that child that you love again," Janet said.
But is that hope really possible? Janet thinks so.
"Absolutely," she said.