Posted: October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
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“Grant me the treasure of sublime poverty: permit the distinctive sign of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of your name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging. “~ Francis of Assisi

One half mile up, one half mile back is all that I went and I got nailed TWICE by panhandlers. The first sitting calmly at a bus stop that I passed by, the other one in the middle of the sidewalk with nowhere to run.

I believe that the first person believed he knew that what he was asking for, was probably wrong so when I said “NO”, his response was “Okay, thanks.”

The second person was a bit unavoidable as I was going to pass him up on the sidewalk. He asked me to give him any spare money that I may have. Not spare change, spare money. Honestly, I have never heard of spare money.

And even the second person probably knew that he was doing wrong when he replied back with: “That’s okay.”

Actually, is it?? Is it okay for him to have stepped right into my path on the sidewalk to ask me for money? I did some quick research about panhandling and begging.

The definition of so called “Aggressive panhandling may vary. In the USA, aggressive panhandling generally involves the solicitation of donations in an intimidating or intrusive manner. Examples may include:

  • Soliciting near ATM banking machines.
  • Soliciting from customers inside a store or restaurant.
  • Soliciting after dark.
  • Approaching individuals from behind, as they are exiting their vehicles, to solicit.
  • Soliciting in a loud voice, often accompanied with wild gesticulations.
  • The use of insults, profanity, or veiled threats.
  • Refusing to take “No” for an answer or following an individual.
  • Demanding more money after a donation has been given.
  • Invasion of personal space, cornering, blocking or inappropriate touching.
  • A “team” of several beggars approaching an individual at once, often surrounding the person.
  • “Camping out” in a spot where begging negatively influences some other business (such as in front of a store or restaurant) in the hope that the business owner will give money to make the beggar go away.

In 2004, the city of  Orlando, Florida passed an ordinance (Orlando Municipal Code section 43.86) requiring panhandlers to obtain a permit from the municipal police department. The ordinance further makes it a crime to panhandle in the commercial core of downtown Orlando, as well as within 50 feet (15 m) of any bank or automated teller machine. It is also considered a crime in Orlando for panhandlers to make false or untrue statements, or to disguise themselves, to solicit money, and to use money obtained for a claim of a specific purpose (e.g. food) to be spent on anything else (e.g. drugs).

In Santa Cruz, CA, there are regulations for panhandlers on where they can and cannot “spange” (beg for “spare change”). For example, they must be a certain distance away from the door of any business.

In parts of San Francisco, CA, aggressive panhandling is prohibited.

In May 2010, police in the city of Boston started cracking down on panhandling in the streets in downtown, and were conducting an educational outreach to residents advising them not to give to panhandlers. The Boston police distinguished active solicitation, or aggressive panhandling, versus passive panhandling of which an example is opening doors at store with a cup in hand but saying nothing.

9.23.030 Place of panhandling – Violation. It shall be unlawful for any person to panhandle when the person solicited is in any of the following places within the city limits of Longview, Washington:

  • (1) At any bus stop; or
  • (2) In any public transportation vehicle or facility; or
  • (3) In any vehicle on a street or on a driveway providing ingress or egress to a street where such driveway is open to the general public; or
  • (4) Within 50 feet of any automated teller machine (ATM); or
  • (5) On private property, unless the panhandler is in physical possession of written permission from the owner or lawful occupant thereof. (Ord. 3051 § 2, 2008).

9.23.040 Manner of panhandling – Violation. It shall be unlawful for any person to panhandle in any of the following manners:

  • (1) By intentionally coming within three feet of the person solicited, unless that person has indicated that he or she does wish to make a donation; or
  • (2) By intentionally obstructing the path of the person or vehicle of the person solicited; or
  • (3) By intentionally obstructing the passage through the entrance or exit of any building; or
  • (4) By soliciting anyone under the age of 16; or
  • (5) By following a person who walks away from the panhandler, if the panhandler’s conduct is intended to or is reasonably likely to intimidate the person being solicited into responding affirmatively to the solicitation; or
  • (6) By using profane or abusive language, either during the solicitation or following a refusal. (Ord. 3051 § 2, 2008).

In Austin, Texas:

County Judge J. David Phillips has upheld a 2005 Municipal Court ruling that a city ordinance banning the solicitation of drivers is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

The ruling comes after John Francis Curran was arrested in June 2003 for violating a section (16-1-20) of the Code of the City of Austin prohibiting the solicitation of motor vehicles when he stood on an Austin street corner with a sign saying “Donations of any kind will help.”

Apparently, its against someone’s right to free speech to stop a person from the urge to beg in the streets of Austin, Texas. And that is probably why there seems to be someone with a cardboard sign on just about every major intersection of street and highway.

Some of these signs are actually creative! One sign that I have seen said, “Need fuel for space craft to link up to mother ship.” Others are quite truthful. “Why lie? I need a beer!”. In which we all know that the percentage is so high to know that’s what they are doing with the funds they receive anyways.

Many panhandling signs seem to have a few things in common:

They say that they are a vet…. another thing that is usually always there is “Anything Helps”…. and of course the final note to their non-verbal begging would be “God bless!”.

Nobody truly knows if these people are homeless veterans or not. So it is always wise to use caution when either you approach them or you allowing them to approach you.

One thing is for sure, they are out to feed their addiction to illegal drugs and alcohol. And this is why panhandling is viewed in a negative light. Because we already can assume that more times than not, the person begging for money is just going to purchase illegal drugs and alcohol.

There comes a time when many of us begin to fall on hard times. The economy is bad and what not, and so many people go to the streets to beg for money. There are those who are just out there to collect, and then there are those extremely rare cases when a person has fallen back on some serious hard times and the only way that they know to get back on their feet is to panhandle for money.

But it is not a clear line that separates the two. The ones who are in real need of help, often are blended in behind those who are not as sincere and are just out for personal and selfish gain.

In my personal opinion, for those who actually do need the help and are seeking it probably still have made the wrong decision. Simply because panhandling is never looked upon in a uplifting manner. Instead of looking for work, they look to beg. There are services and organizations that can help. Either they don’t know where to go, or just choose not to because they know that panhandling works so well.

On any given day, a panhandler can make anywhere up to $200-300 (USD) a day. In that case, heck- why work?!? Just beg. But that is something that I would never personally condone under any circumstances.

But still for myself, the negative experiences I have gone through in the past six years have started in this manner. Four or five of those started with someone coming up to me and asking me to give them something, whether it be money or cigarettes or whatever. And the end results turned to the fact that I had to physically defend myself because they were aggressive towards me when I told them “NO” in the first place.

When that second guy came, I was scared. I knew that he was going to ask for something. Although I was fairly certain that it was not going to be for cigarettes, he had two new packs in his hand, a lone cigarette and a lighter in the other. So obviously he did have money before to buy smokes. But it still made me worry a little bit if he was going to be aggressive. Thankfully he was not. Neither was the first.

In my own situation, I sometimes wonder if I should go out and panhandle. For two reasons.

#1- I experience hardship often more times than I admit to.

#2- With as many panhandlers as there are here, I wonder just how “sympathetic” the population would be towards a panhandler in a wheelchair? The science behind that theory baffles me. Would it be true that the population would give more to a person begging in a wheelchair, rather than someone walking up and down in the middle of the street??

So it seems as if panhandlers are using their right for free speech. Or so the state laws say that. But what about mine? Am I allowed to tell these people “NO!” if I do not want to give them anything, especially if they are so wasted out of their minds on illegal drugs and alcohol? And once they get aggressive towards me or someone else, where does the law come in on that?

Quite interesting to think about. EVERYONE involved should be protected by their rights to free speech. The panhandlers to ask, and the population to say “NO!”.

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