11 June 2010


Rereading the Enquirer's June 7th article about City Council's latest attempt to micro-manage the 17 or so people who panhandle downtown.  Council passed "a set of guidelines" for shelters to help shelter staff "discourage" panhandling.  But most of the panhandlers I know cannot possibly feel more discouraged than they do already.

Are guidelines the same as a law?  I can't find that distinction in the article.  Apparently though, one council member recalled the city being sued over previous attempts to control panhandling.  The panhandling guidelines were therefore removed from a larger measure addressing homeless shelter management and voted on separately.

The looniest part of the article was a series of quotes from Mr. Gary Wachs, the general manager of the Garfield Suites.   Mr. Wachs complained bitterly about "aggressive" panhandlers.  One minute Wachs describes panhandlers as coming from "the darkness," the next minute he claims panhandlers are professional criminals who come from the suburbs.  How does that work?

Wachs apparently believes that panhandlers knock down beaucoup bucks, enough to allow them to house themselves, and in the suburbs no less.  His belly aching about panhandler aggression sounds as if he cannot distinguish between panhandling and mugging.

The archive drop down list (Ghosts of Posts Past) includes a posting from 7 November, 2008 called Hey Buddy, a sort of primer for aspiring panhandlers. Panhandlers I've known learn very quickly that aggressiveness equals rejection. Successful panhandlers are largely passive, or at least soft-sell. Begging is like any other business: rudeness runs off customers. And beggars are not muggers.

1 comment:

VisuaLingual said...

I'm shocked, and a bit amused, that anyone would consider panhandlers aggressive in general. Their tactics always involve some for and some amount of engagement, which is logical and varies from the cardboard sign to the general non-question "spare some change" to the occasional direct, one-on-one engagement entailing the telling of some far-fetched story, hopefully far-fetched enough that you may be tempted to believe it. None of that should be threatening in the least; the last option I gave is no more "aggressive" than someone stopping you in the street to ask you for directions.

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