An interesting discussion… about panhandling


I swear I had never heard about this before, don’t know if you have, and so please take a few moments to check out the article about a way some cities are attempting to address panhandling.

And now that you’ve returned… yeah… I agree with your reaction. Wow.

Apparently several cities, such as New Haven, Connecticut, are attempting to address the growing problems of panhandling by fundraising. And yes, that is a simplistic explanation, but it’s honestly a tricky conversation.

The action is more specifically that as an alternative to a person asking or begging for money… and even more specifically, in attempts to push out those asking or begging… the governments are offering a differetn option for you to pass monies along to charities and organizations. You know, should you be so inclined as to donate.

I’m honestly not sure if I know how to respond (because I actually think I do… and it is founded in two thoughts)…

First up… I don’t know that these automated charity boxes are going to stop problems. I don’t see these meters keeping people away from the stop lights near highway ramps, the intersections at busy marketplaces, or any other place where the federal courts are declaring panhandling as an expression of free speech.

(Go ahead… look that free speech stuff up. Here – “Rhode Island courts panhandling freedom of speech” works as one possible search string. You can explore from there.)

Second… Anyone seen anything guaranteeing where monies donated into the city’s bins from such efforts are destined to go? Because I’ll tell you right now groups and organizations and programs such as education/schools could provide you with a fair amount of information about how monies and budgets promised from various sources is never reduced, never distributed elsewhere, and never in some fashion viewed through creative accounting.

All of which brings us to my response, which is basically questions…

Do the meters prevent people from giving to panhandlers? Or, more precisely, have any of these towns that felt the need to address panhandling through meters able to show what might be considered a positive change from it in the community?

While I won’t examine the intentions here, I do wonder how the programs decide where to direct the funds. How do they collect it, process it, and distribute it?

Funny enough… most of the research I did usually brought out information saying that places couldn’t find any change in panhandling activity that could be credited to the presence of the meters. (This, if they mentioned the concept of what the results have been at all.)

Several years ago I read an article where the writer noted seeing people asking for money at a shopping mall. Holding a sign and everything. And, as I remember it, over a couple of days, it was noted that the sign was exactly the same but it wasn’t always the same person holding it.

The tricky conversation area comes from a simple place: no one wants to be the one seen as politically incorrect, or in the case of those seeking assistance, shown as being in opposition of someone truly in need of help. And yet, there are plenty of examples of people taking advantage of a system or situation and charity gone wrong, which in turn should be investigated and criticized (and, potentially, opposed).

It’s a difficult tightrope to walk.

I suppose I didn’t come here to arrive at an answer. Seeing meters in squares or parks isn’t like strolling through a town or village and seeing horses, crabs, cows, Mr. Potato Heads or other iconic neighborhood mascots. It’s an issue, not a decoration.

One thing is certain though, walking quickly without making eye contact isn’t the only option.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at