Stephanie Greene: Explore a system in which panhandlers are held accountable for profits

Published: 12/2/2019 1:42:04 PM

I read the article in the Nov. 21 Gazette (“Time to stop being in our corners”) about the meeting with local merchants to discuss the homeless and panhandler situation downtown. Several of the suggested solutions, such as a work plan and community center where they can be, make great sense.

One thing I didn’t see, however, was any conversation about the idea of holding the panhandlers accountable for their presence. I have no idea how much money they make on a given day, using their signs. However, rumors abound about a system wherein someone drops the pan-handlers off in the morning and picks them up at night, suggesting an organized group effort.

It would seem possible, if not probable, that if the same people occupy the same spots day after day, week after week, it’s because those spots are proving profitable. What if a system were created in which the panhandlers have to account for their profits? Could that work and how would it? Could they be charged something to stay at shelters if they’ve made money? Would that help defer the costs of maintaining those places?

If they are, indeed, making money from pedestrians to help live, shouldn’t they be asked to pay for their room and board the way other people have to? I don’t care to pass judgment about what they might be spending the money they’re given on, but if they are “earning” money in that way, is it unreasonable that they are asked to pay for the food and/or accommodations the city gives them?

Stephanie Greene


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