Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com
I type this, I see panhandlers on the street below, right before a traffic intersection. Too often cars stop without warning in order to give the panhandlers money. From their behavior, I’d guess that most are mentally ill and/or have substance-abuse problems.
There have been reports that in some cities syndicates place the panhandlers at certain corners and then take some of the revenue, sort of like pimps.
In many places (such as Rhode Island) the local chapters of the ACLU have made it too difficult to force these people to stop their “work,’’ or whatever you want to call it. So they continue to create litter (lots of cigarette butts) and threaten car crashes. In some (more conservative?) places, however, municipalities have managed to make bans on panhandling stick. Indeed, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty reports that the number of communities that bar all panhandling has risen 40 percent in the past decade and more than 60 percent now prohibit the practice in some public places.
But some cities are being more creative. As a story by Maine Public Radio’s Ed Morin reports, Portland officials have hired some beggars to do such public chores as cleaning parks, focusing on picking up trash (which panhandlers, who are often homeless, help litter), generally at the local minimum wage. Private donations have also been used in some places to support these initiatives. To see Mr. Morin’s story, hit: https://nenc.news/portland-program-puts-panhandlers-productive-paying-public-projects/
It recalls the WPA of New Deal days.
As Mr. Morin reports, some other cities are taking the same approach, including Albuquerque, Denver and Chicago. I applaud this effort to financially support people to help prevent their homelessness, to give more structure, meaning and self-respect to their dysfunctional lives and to clean up communities, especially in public places. Let’s not let municipal labor unions get in the way.