Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cleveland Crazy Over Panhandling

Panhandling Ordinance Sails Through Council

There is nothing that the Coalition deals with that is more politically charged than panhandling. People are on-fire opposed to panhandlers. There is a deep, dark, hate for panhandlers among some pedestrians. This is such a small number of the people NEOCH represents, but this group inspires the most anger. I wish that I did not have to argue about people who can ask for money, but no one else ever steps forward on behalf of panhandlers. They do not have a trade association and they do not work well with each other. To say nothing for the small number of panhandlers who create such a nuisance that they make it bad for everyone. The Grapevine blog has done a good job keeping up on the panhandling debate.

Here is an e-mail that I got to our website from Tom after the article appeared in the Plain Dealer:
"It makes certain spots in the city off-limits to free speech," said Brian Davis, head of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. "What is the concern because a person asks for money near a phone?"
How about the right to leave me the F$#@ alone?

Here is my reply to Tom:
"Thank you for the suggestion, but that law does not exist in our society. If it did I would not receive telephone calls from so many politicians in October. There would be no Federal Communications Commission messing with what I am "allowed" to watch on the public airwaves, and advertising would not appear on every single flat surface in our universe. So, you have to put up with hearing from poor people asking for help until you can get that privacy law passed."

I did hear from people who were surprised how large the fine was for panhandling--$250. That seems very extreme to me and a few callers to our office. It seems like you are forcing people already down to dig a deeper hole that they will not get out of anytime soon. Eventually, this law will fail as it has in nearly every other city in the United States. The backers will be back at the table with more extreme measures after this law fails or is struck down by the courts.

As we always say, the only way to make any impact on panhandling is competition and finding alternative jobs for those begging for money. We need to put some of the brightest minds to the task of finding micro-enterprise or some other innovative ideas to move people into real jobs that do not involve asking for "charitable" help. We have a number of ideas on the NEOCH website as alternatives, but right now the City is busy making laws instead of solving problems.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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