How to handle panhandlers?
The Tennessean asked readers what they thought should be done about people who panhandle on our streets. Following are excerpts from their replies:
What can we do about begging? Well, how about helping people who are reduced to this method of survival? How about giving them a job and a place to live? They're panhandling because they're desperate and don't know what else to do.
It bothers me that so many downtowners, especially the newcomers moving in, are so ticked off at those less fortunate than they. When knocking panhandling, these folks are really annoyed by all homeless persons and want them to go away.
It seems to be the norm today to discriminate, but to blame the homeless for being homeless is the worst kind of bigotry.
Aren't we all beggars? How many persons do we know today who are asking for all kinds of favors — from their schools, their employers, from the government and others? What do you think all those candidates for political office are doing? They wouldn't get very far without asking for help and money. …
If all the business owners downtown, the Chamber of Commerce and Metro government would try to work out a solution to homelessness, then all the impatience and worrying about panhandling would be taken care of.
Nashville, as well as virtually all other American cities, needs to deal with the issues of poverty and homelessness. We need to address the core issues to provide affordable housing, mental-heath and drug-addiction treatment and public restrooms.
While these issues must be approached with compassion, giving money to panhandlers is not the needed solution. While money donated to worthy charities or social services is applied directly to helping people, money given to panhandlers is usually spent on alcohol or drugs and simply enables these people to continue bad behaviors.
Panhandlers tend to congregate where their behaviors are rewarded and avoid areas where they receive no handouts.
George Gruhn, downtown businessman
Some people just don't want to support themselves or their addictions, so they tend to rely on other people for their support, thinking that the world owes them something.
Anyone caught panhandling anywhere should be written a citation and have to appear in court and possibly be brought up on charges. I think that would decrease the panhandling.
Octavis R. Horne,
I honestey do not know if there's any legitimate solutions I can talk about and feel comfortable with. This form of asking — or begging some would call it — is something that is almost natural in this country!
Maybe we should just keep intimidating the panhandlers and post a sign saying it's not allowed. I don't believe passing out cards would make Nashville's image any more glamorous than any other city or town in our great nation.
Floyd Jackson Jr.
Panhandling is not a Nashville thing. It's a national thing. It's everywhere. What to do about it? Your guess is as good as mine.
Me personally, if I can give, I do. If I can't, I don't. Some people lose more change in their couch. What's a little change?
Panhandling and homelessness go hand in hand and are found in every major city across America.
Nashville has a militant brand of panhandling. Very aggressive and not taking "No!" for an answer, they become belligerent and offensive.
What ever happened to "any spare change?" or a cup and a sign asking for a donation?
Now, I'm asked for $1.25 for local bus fare, and another asked for $42.50 for bus fare "to get home."
Sadly, the park across from the library has been taken over by the homeless, and I don't dare walk through there to eat lunch.
What to do? Passing out literature about shelters only infuriates them, and they operate on a strictly "cash-only" basis for beer or wine.
Avoiding their stare makes me feel uncomfortable and angers me that my city has been hijacked.
The only solution I see is to increase funding to make shelters more accommodating with increased social and medical services. It's up to them to improve their situation, not me.
Every city of any size strives to address the many challenges posed by homeless men and women who have real and legitimate needs.
For 13 years, I have worked at Vanderbilt University, often encountering panhandlers on both the West End and 21st Avenue sides of campus.
I also coordinate student groups that work with the homeless during the winter months. We host 15 men on Sundays for the citywide program called Room in the Inn.
My point? I believe that one approach to panhandling is for people, first, to get involved as volunteers in some kind of homeless ministry or program.
This serves to address the real needs of this population (for food, clothing and shelter), while allowing the main population to get acquainted with the homeless and to discover that this is not a monolithic group. …
By the way, not all panhandlers are homeless!
What do I do when asked for money?
Normally, I have a "no-cash" policy. If the person asking for help says he needs a few dollars for a meal, I have offered to walk over to Wendy's or the nearest restaurant to order something for that person. … I have bought bus fare for people, too.
Some panhandlers exploit people by (rightly) assuming that people are pressed for time, don't want to spend time talking to them and will give them a few dollars just to have them go away. These same panhandlers, when offered actual goods or services for which they are asking, will make excuses for not needing the food or fare "right now." Such refusals then become a legitimate way for citizens to discern real needs from tall tales. …
Metro needs to broker the skills of its local clergy, community organizers and others who know this population so that the greater Nashville population can deal, hands on, with those who deserve a little hospitality.
Monday, July 16, 2007