(Originally posted 10/25/2013.)
For years, I had the mantra: “Most panhandlers aren’t homeless, and most homeless people don’t panhandle.”
Now I have many acquaintances who do one or the other.
Given recent instability in my support system, I myself may soon become one who does both.
My experience is much informed by what I’ve seen at the McDonald’s I frequent at Baltimore and Light Streets, where some people seem to panhandle outside all day long.
I have friends who may panhandle to buy coffee there or to get a few “loose ones” (individual cigarettes, normally sold for 50¢ each); but these are incidentals. For folk with real, chronic food issues, there are IMO fully adequate feeding centers in Baltimore City, beginning with Our Daily Bread, Beans and Bread and the Franciscan Center. No one need panhandle for food in the City for long. The shelters all feed those who stay there.
Drunks don’t panhandle for food. They have no interest in food. My mantra dates from ca. 1993 when I lived in very close proximity to two drunks who each maintained his own apartment, but would panhandle daily only long enough to buy a quart. That’s enough to keep you inebriated for 24 hours; and you have no need for food. You have no appetite; and you can’t keep any food down anyway.
People have a right to be comfortable and feel safe in downtown Baltimore.
The proposed ordinance would prohibit panhandling within 10 feet of (1) an outdoor eatery or (2) parking meters, and (3) in traffic. As to the first two, it seems to me a radius of 20 feet would be better. As to the third, I’m less certain. I recall how, when the squeegee kids first appeared, they were hailed as examples of boot-strapping American ingenuity. Then some adopted manners more like extortion. I have a bud who used to stand with a cup on the median at Orleans and Central, who I’m sure never approached anyone aggressively.
Dan Rodricks complains that the ordinance fails to address underlying issues. Neither does he. I’m chagrinned that he recalls the debacle of Our Daily Bread’s tenure at Cathedral and Franklin Streets; there’s much more to that than I can go into just now. A subsequent post, “Where trees thrive, people thrive,” will; and I will link to it here once it appears. That may be a few weeks from now.
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