Letter: First, we need more information on panhandling
Panhandling is a problem; I agree. So far, though, this problem’s described by only one set of people: those being asked for money.
Yes, it’s disconcerting to be asked for money as we exit our parked cars. Yes, it’s alarming to be followed from an ATM machine by strangers demanding cash. Yes, Main Street business owners can legitimately gripe about panhandlers keeping potential customers away. And, yes, when panhandlers interact with traffic, safety issues arise.
Missing from this legitimate concern, however, are the voices of panhandlers. Who are they? Where are they from? Why are there now more panhandlers in evidence than ever? Above all, what desperation – because it must be desperation in wind chills of minus-30 – drives panhandlers to stand for hours on traffic islands and street corners?
These questions are as legitimate as the concerns above. We’ve probably all speculated, charitably or cynically, about possible answers.
When, stopped for a light in single-digit temps at nightfall, I watch a sign-holding young woman climb into a car she’s clearly recognized and hurried to, I have to wonder. Where is she going? With whom?
What happens now to the cash she’s collected? More to the point: what happens to her?
Is this really her choice, to stand outside for hours in such weather?
Before we start crafting panhandling ordinances, we need more information. We know panhandling’s a problem for those being hassled for cash. What if it’s also a problem – though a very different one – for the panhandlers themselves?
Rep. JANE J. HUNT