Beggars and choosers | Editorial | Indy Week
Pin It

Beggars and choosers 

Panhandlers, if not aggressive, don't offend me. Although I rarely give them money, I will buy them a cup of coffee, lunch or a small bag of groceries. And on the whole, I prefer them to mainstream Slick Willies who try to come between me and my money: telemarketers, politicians, casinos, the N.C. Education Lottery, televangelists and Jehovah's Witnesses. (OK, they don't want my money as much as they want my soul.)

Panhandlers elicit reactions ranging from empathy to intimidation to disgust. These emotions lie at the heart of a rigorous debate that earlier this week prompted Durham County Commissioners to vote 4-1 to prohibit panhandling countywide, except within city limits.

True, begging on the road or median is dangerous for driver and panhandler. And I'm glad commissioners were fair enough to ban other roadside distractions: dubious nonprofits and their plastic buckets, firefighters and their gaping rubber boots, even newspaper vendors and their stack of today's headlines.

But the subtext of this issue is that panhandling makes communities look bad. The supposed business downturn on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill has been laid not on the outrageously high rents and sagging economy, but at the feet of panhandlers; their presence became an election issue last fall. The Durham City Council hasn't banned the practice, but limits begging to the daytime and requires, ironically, panhandlers to buy a $20 permit, the money for which probably comes from panhandling. In Raleigh, where state legislators can blithely stroll by beggars on Fayetteville Street, the ordinance requires panhandlers to obtain a free permit, bans them from roads and ATMs, and also prohibits asking for a handout after dark, unless, of course, you're a politician hosting a $100-a-plate fundraiser.

Quoted in The News & Observer, Durham Commissioner Lewis Cheek spoke the most honestly: "I do think what it says about Durham, North Carolina, is that we don't care enough about them to do something."

Banning panhandling is easier than allocating sufficient social services funds and developing compassionate public policy to help and treat people who seek handouts on the street. And if the county commission, or any government body, is going to enact the former, than it has the responsibility to do the latter.

Otherwise, these bans are strictly to keep up appearances, a foil to shield ourselves from the naked reality that panhandling is among dozens of social problems we don't know how—or don't want—to solve.

Walking a gauntlet of outstretched hands may be daunting, but the "compassionate conservatism" dominating America has created a society in which it's every person for himself or herself. The panhandlers are merely looking out for No. 1, just like you and me.

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Editorial



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Fresh ideas are essential to progressive journalism - Bravo to the new team - it feels like the old Indy …

by Bonnie Hauser on A Brief Note on the Indy's Recent Personnel Changes (Editorial)

Good luck to Skillet and Grayson! I've enjoyed their work for years and will miss them in these pages. …

by john i on A Brief Note on the Indy's Recent Personnel Changes (Editorial)

TERRIBLE thin grey print font;

Change from legible to practically illegible;
tried several times to read articles …

by Chris Tiffany on A Quick Note on Our New Print Redesign (Editorial)

"McCrory has taken our state out of millions of dollars in debt and brought us a 400 million dollar surplus …

by vocalocal on Why we're suing Pat McCrory (Editorial)

McCrory has taken our state out of millions of dollars in debt and brought us a 400 million dollar surplus …

by beaconoftruth on Why we're suing Pat McCrory (Editorial)

Comments

Fresh ideas are essential to progressive journalism - Bravo to the new team - it feels like the old Indy …

by Bonnie Hauser on A Brief Note on the Indy's Recent Personnel Changes (Editorial)

Good luck to Skillet and Grayson! I've enjoyed their work for years and will miss them in these pages. …

by john i on A Brief Note on the Indy's Recent Personnel Changes (Editorial)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation