Giving is a Crime in San Antonio
September 9, 2014 2:36 PM   Subscribe

In 2011 the City of San Antonio passed an ordinance outlawing panhandling at "ATMs, banks, parking garages, charitable contribution meters, parking meters/pay stations, bus stops, outdoor dining areas, and marked crosswalks". Police Chief William McManus now wants to ticket those who give to panhandlers. Nate Schlueter of Austin's Mobile Loaves and Fishes said that "if San Antonio does this ordinance they'll essentially become the cruelest city in America".
posted by Benway (59 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm sure all the evangelical churches are against Police Chief McManus' plan.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


A tiny voice in my head speaks to me when I read these things:

He proposed an ordinance to the City Council's Public Safety Committee on Wednesday that would make giving to panhandlers in the forbidden areas a Class C misdemeanor like protesting outside of designated Free Speech zones.

"If it's a crime to panhandle, it should be a crime to give to panhandlers as well," McManus told the committee, just pulling shit out of his ass.

"Once the money dries up, he said, panhandlers will leave the street corners and starve quietly in less visible portions of the city where decent people will not have to look at them.

Noteable greedhead Councilman Mike Gallagher applauded the idea and said he often gets complaints about panhandlers. They risk bodily harm by stepping into busy thoroughfares, and they risk injury to drivers who have to avoid them, he said, looking to make noises about safety but unable to find a way to bring children into it.

A draft of the ordinance is scheduled for committee review next month; sadly, McManus' job review isn't for another two years.
posted by adipocere at 2:47 PM on September 9, 2014 [24 favorites]


Outlaw the symptoms, keep spreading the disease (poverty, that is).
posted by JauntyFedora at 2:48 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile, my hometown just unanimously passed an ordinance requiring marijuana dispensaries to donate 2% of their weed to low-income residents.

In conclusion America is a land of contrast.
posted by theodolite at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


Further evidence we're now almost totally governing our society on the basis of appearances.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


About 40 years ago we took a shopping trip from our home in San Antonio to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and I was shocked to see people panhandling on the streets and sidewalks. I was thankful that I had the good fortune to be born in a country where even the poorest weren't forced to beg for basic sustenance. Things have really gone downhill here since Reagan and his cronies popularized trickle down economics. Many of the panhandlers I see are veterans. The same politicos who are against panhandling are the chickenhawks who advocate war as a solution, conspicously claim to support the troops, then vote for reductions on progressive taxes and veterans benefits.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:53 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


In conclusion America is a land of context.

posted by OwlBoy at 2:54 PM on September 9, 2014


Didn't your supreme court rule that money is speech and thus giving money is constitutionally protected? I'm giving to this panhandler to make a political statement in opposition to electing assholes.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:58 PM on September 9, 2014 [52 favorites]


Fuck people, man.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:58 PM on September 9, 2014


Money - speech if you are a corporation, found treasure for the police if you are an individual.

In my head, America the Beautiful loops in a discordant minor key, forever.
posted by kokaku at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Didn't your supreme court rule that money is speech and thus giving money is constitutionally protected? I'm giving to this panhandler to make a political statement in opposition to electing assholes.

Only corporations are people deserving of "free speech."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


The thing is that if people cannot beg as a last resort they will be forced to do something else as a last resort that may be worse than being an 'annoying eyesore'.

It reminds of how this summer Chicago put barriers up between stanchions on an underpass to prevent homeless people sleeping between the stanchions because it made people uncomfortable to walk past the homeless in a poorly lit infrequently used by pedestrians underpass.

So they moved to shop doorways where everyone has to walk past them all the time.

Not exactly a victory for urban planning for either the city or the homeless. Near as I can tell the only benefit was to the contractor who put in the barriers. Probably related to a Daley I'd guess.
posted by srboisvert at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Money is free speech but the homeless aren't people, so if we can get them to become a corporation , then they would be people and it would oKay to give them speech ( money) easy peasy.
posted by The Whelk at 3:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess I've been an occasional criminal under San Antonio law.
posted by immlass at 3:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeesh. I just finished updating my voter registration, at least I know who to vote against now.

Is there some sort of early recall for police chief jackass? Some way we can dump him quick?
posted by sotonohito at 3:19 PM on September 9, 2014


Mobile Loaves and Fishes does good work. Our church gets the truck once a month and brings hot food and clothes to the worst neighborhoods in RI. It's been very eye-opening for my teenage son.
posted by Biblio at 3:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


When I first moved to California, I drove the Ryder truck down the exit ramp on 580 into Richmond, and there was a white guy standing there with a "will work for food" sign. I saw a few more, then I drove the truck over to San Rafael to return it, and as I turned on to East Francisco Blvd I went past that corner with all of the non-white day laborers, trying to flag me down, wanting to actively work for food. Kinda set some of my feelings about immigration, but I carried on.

In the intervening years I've left my largely upper middle class white bubble, and have known a few low income people. People who would have liked to have a car to live in. I'm now aware of some of those places where people live in the wainscots, that that little rabbit trail in the hedge likely leads to a community encampment.

Universally, these folks look down on panhandlers, suggest that there's plenty of other ways to survive, and tell me that the panhandlers are the least willing to work.

I also now try to use public transit, and I've got to tell you, I'm sick and tired of the same damned people trolling the transit centers, forgetting that they've already given me the same tired story several days in a row. I do have the option of what sort of transportation to use, and it turns me off from taking the bus.

And, of course, I've got the usual litany of stories about getting cursed for giving food directly, or suggesting homeless services, or, upon telling someone that I give to our local homeless services agency rather than giving directly to panhandlers, get bitched out about how discriminatory they are, and have someone else overhear that exchange, come up to me afterwards and say "I'm a client, I appreciate your support of that organization, and yeah, that guy got kicked out because [completely valid reason]"

So, yeah, it's a quality of life issue: Even in cities that have fairly substantial safety nets, panhandlers are looking for opportunity, they're engaging in a fairly remunerative activity that doesn't make anyone's life better. And if there's a strong set of local services, I got no problem with saying "stop harassing people for drinking/meth money".
posted by straw at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Does panhandling include busking?
posted by Strass at 3:29 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


The criminalization of being poor continues, all while we claim that anybody can get ahead in America.

This is what happens when social policy is created by people who were born on third base and think they hit a triple.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I personally cannot imagine a situation where I would need a beer more than if I were homeless. I'd also like better options for the meth-heads and other addicts in my neighborhood than panhandling, sex work, stealing stuff, or whatever else folks have to do to avoid withdrawal. While I'm wishing I'd also like national healthcare, sensible drug policy, and a pony.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:52 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


NYC and London have designated busker spots for which one has to pass an audition. Chicago has a busker license for which the performer wears a lanyard with a badge. I don't know about other cities.

I live in New York and give money to City Harvest and the NY Times Neediest Cases,which provides funds to 7 programs in the city. I refuse to enable those who won't seek out those resources.
posted by brujita at 3:54 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


At first glance I read his name as "Police Chief William McAnus". Turns out I wasn't entirely wrong.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:08 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do not support police pension plans. It just encourages them.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I hate being approached by beggars.

But social programs in the English-speaking countries have been cut back and cut back; and made less sufficient, less reliable, and more demeaning. People who fall between the gaps (for whatever reason) are screwed; and even people with a roof and sufficient food need actual cash to pay for things like toiletries and so forth. Of course some beggars are less needy than other ones; they may even earn more (however irregularly) than people with a poorly-paid regular job. On the other hand, many (most?) beggars are homeless and their expenses will be higher, what with lacking a kitchen to prepare food, or a safe place to leave their things.

So while I really don't like being approached by people I don't know and being forced on the spot to assess my finances versus their need, I can see that the problem exists because we have washed our hands of poverty and left solutions to over-stretched charities and the occasional benevolent spasms of do-gooders. If we took responsibility for poor people as people, rather than as problems, there would be fewer beggars and it would give poor people generally some relief from the urgent terrors of poverty.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:17 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:18 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Does panhandling include busking?

Depends how good you play.
posted by goethean at 4:19 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Although I use credit cards for just about everything, I always have some ones, fives and tens with me to accommodate people in need. Yeah, occasionally I am sure I am scammed by someone. But since we don't do churches or religions I figure we save lots of unscammed funds there. Besides. I am actually the real benefactor of giving to the seemingly homeless. It makes me believe I have in some small way helped someone less fortunate than myself. So I suppose you could say it is selfish giving.
posted by notreally at 4:48 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Panhandling may be annoying, but it is protected as free speech, and numerous court decisions around the country have upheld that.

Likewise busking.

People say lots of things that bother me a hell of a lot more than "spare any change?" Doesn't mean they don't have a right to say them.
posted by adamrice at 4:57 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


brujita : That seems really hard. How do you spot the difference between those who have sought those resources and those who haven't? Do they give out lanyards to the seekers so they can reassure potential donors they've sought out particular resources?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:07 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


the panhandlers are the least willing to work.

Where I live, at least, the majority of them suffer from mental illness. Many are living with addiction. In the US, many are veterans suffering from PTSD (I've read that in the 80s, something like 80% of homeless men were Vietnam vets).

I guess the next-to-bottom rung of the economic ladder has no more capacity for empathy than the top.
posted by klanawa at 5:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hey- if those semi-delinquent collegiate-types young people who keep trying to stop me outside my office to talk about UNICEF, or Greenpeace, or CARE, or whatever have protected speech, then the panhandlers should as well.

Because, those grinning jackanapes young people are way more aggressive and ubiquitous in my city than any of the panhandlers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Theodolite: Meanwhile, my hometown just unanimously passed an ordinance requiring marijuana dispensaries to donate 2% of their weed to low-income residents.

In that same city, harshing ones mellow is punishable by a $50 fine.
posted by dr_dank at 5:25 PM on September 9, 2014


> ... they're engaging in a fairly remunerative activity that doesn't make anyone's life better.

Well, they get money to buy food to eat (at best, to buy drugs they're addicted to at worst), so I'd guess their own lives are made better. Doesn't really build the local economy, but are we operating under some rubric where they aren't 'anybody'?
posted by benito.strauss at 5:31 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


The lanyards are given out for buskers in Chicago, where I don't live. A Chicago mefite can help clarify.

No, I don't know how accessible the resources I fund are, but the libraries and many places of worship do.
posted by brujita at 6:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Leaving the grocery story the other day, driving my scooter, I came around the corner and found a woman with several dufflebags and smaller bags of stuff who had put everything down on the sidewalk to dig out a coat because it was getting chilly. She looked tired - so tired - and dirty and, I guess you'd call it resigned. I offered her a $10 bill, but she declined. "I just got my Social Security check today," she said, "so I don't need it, but thank you." I told her it didn't matter - maybe the little bit of money would help later on ... She again deferred, smiling, and asked me to give it to someone else - she was "doing okay."
posted by aryma at 6:03 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am a San Antonio resident, a "good liberal" and a borderline socialist, so I feel like I need to provide context.

San Antonio has a massive, MASSIVE homeless population. Possibly in the tens of thousands. The reasons are complex: San Antonio is a military town and attracts a lot of veterans -- many of whom are down on their luck. There is also a massive drug problem (much like the rest of the country) although San Antonio sits on a major distribution "pipeline" from Mexico, likely making the situation even worse.

San Antonio homeless people panhandle aggressively -- they ask first. If you don't give something, they start shouting or cussing. Some of them will even bow up on you if you don't contribute. They also dart and weave into traffic to collect donations, and are often killed by motorists or cause non-fatal accidents by jumping into traffic. They'll wander through busy intersections and not even notice the danger they're in -- or not care. Almost all of them seem dazed or absent minded.

They often catcall and harass passing women, shouting misogynistic slurs or exposing themselves. They have been known to urinate and even defecate in the streets, in front of business or even on people's lawns.

San Antonio actually has an extremely large and well-funded series of programs for the homeless. Haven for Hope is our "flagship" facility -- they offer food, shelter, clothes, medical care, showers, legal aid, internet access and job assistance 24 hours a day, with no "catch", no mandatory preaching and no time limit for assistance. It's literally everything that you could ask for, if you were homeless.

If you were homeless in San Antonio, you could be fully fed, clothed and sheltered within an hour, no questions asked. We are a very generous city.

The issue here is that our homeless are, as a rule, endangering themselves and others by panhandling in the streets. This is unacceptable behavior, especially when comprehensive homeless services are freely available.

I understand the aversion to this policy. This is the sort of policy that "good liberals" like me are supposed to be against, because we're supposed to have solidarity with the poor and homeless. And I do. Solidarity, however, should not extend to the point where hardworking, honest citizens feel victimized by lawlessness. This is one of the mistakes that liberals such as myself made in the 60's and 70's: we confused permissiveness with solidarity. The American people (rightly or wrongly) reacted to that, and we got Reagan in the 80's.

Looking the other way while a man high on crystal meth shouts obscenities at a car full of women is not "solidarity". Giving that man a few bucks towards his next hit is not "solidarity". Allowing severely mentally ill people the "freedom" to sleep in gutters or be run down by motorists is not "solidarity".

The homeless do need help, and they do need our solidarity -- but this means taking stances that we might not otherwise take. I'd like to encourage everyone to keep this in mind before passing too many judgments.
posted by Avenger at 7:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [24 favorites]


Thanks, "Avenger."

I live in Portland, OR, with an ongoing and tedious local homelessness debate about aggressive panhandlers, etc....Someone asks a tourist for change and people go ape-shit for nothing.

I had this idea that there were only, like, 50 low-key homeless people there as opposed to the 2000 or so that we have here downtown, and that SA were being jackasses like some small town in BFE.

Sounds like a cluster, way problematic. Changes context entirely.
posted by obsolutely at 7:42 PM on September 9, 2014


I agree with Avenger.

We have ministries here in my town that feed the homeless population, plus we have a police officer whose job is to check on them and help them find shelter, safety, and access to resources (which yes, we need more shelter and more resources,of course.)

That said, we have people who panhandle at streetcorners posing as homeless who are NOT homeless. The very generous director of one of the main charities dedicated to feeding and helping our local homeless population told me personally that people should NOT give them any money.

We have local homeless who drop in on our church services. We have gotten to know some of these people. Some are frankly con artists, some are folks in desperate need of mental health services, some are doing everything in their power to help themselves. It is not a monolithic population. I will give to some of these people, but I will not give to the guys who have made it a pretty prosperous business on the intersections.

We can and must do better by the homeless people, but at the same time, the ones who are aggressive and dangerous do not have the right to harass people either. Just giving someone a dollar on the street is not helping. Giving them resources, a place to sleep, a full meal and access to health care and job training is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:44 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, I can't tell which person is a con artist, which person has sought out resources, or which person is the right kind of deserving poor, just like I can't tell if a person parking in a handicapped space has an invisible disability or not. Just like nobody can tell what I'm going through by looking at me. If I don't feel I can give, or just don't feel like giving, I politely decline, but if I have the cash and time to spare, I'm going to give people the same benefit of the doubt I want given to me if I'm in trouble.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:13 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Also, it may not be a "job" with a W-9 and FICA, but it sure looks like hard work to me. I don;t think I'd have the stamina for it, and it's certainly more actual labor than your average Fortune 500 CEO puts in in a day.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The citizens of San Antonio and Bexar County have generously tithed a portion of their income and pooled their money to create a massive facility for housing the homeless panhandlers, with governmental oversight to insure that they are treated in accordance with the procedures implemented by representatives of the citizens. For many of these panhandlers, this facility is their gateway to a lifetime of government services. I believe this is an appropriate solution.

The anti-panhandling laws are not designed to be deliberately cruel to panhandlers. They are intended to protect innocent citizens from panhandlers. I watched a friend who liked to give a few bucks to panhandlers, becoming more familiar with them, getting ensnared with homeless con artists, and eventually being swindled out of all her money, losing her home, and her job. And all because she was generous and kind hearted and naive about swindling con artist panhandlers.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:23 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised how anti-panhandler the people in this thread are. I like panhandlers, not because I enjoy being aggressively panhandled, but because panhandlers are an important way of viscerally reminding people with privilege about the fact that they are privileged. Panhandling is a political act that reflects back at people their typically tacit sentiment about how visible poverty ought to be.The freedom to panhandle is a principle that anyone who claims to value equality should be willing to defend.
posted by Dr. Send at 9:34 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


panhandlers are an important way of viscerally reminding people with privilege about the fact that they are privileged.

That is not true.

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
-Anatole France

posted by charlie don't surf at 9:43 PM on September 9, 2014


The citizens of San Antonio and Bexar County have generously tithed a portion of their income and pooled their money to create a massive facility for housing the homeless panhandlers [...]

Charlie, that's an amazingly cruel response, and I'm a bit surprised.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:46 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's not nearly as cruel as what panhandlers did to my friend. Not even close.

Unfortunately, the reality of homelessness and panhandling is cruel. I have surely seen it more closely than you, having lived and worked next to Skid Row in Los Angeles, and even having volunteered to work in the Rescue Mission on Skid Row (back in the days when I was naive and idealistic). I've seen homeless people assaulting each other and innocent public citizens, raping, stabbing, shooting, and all before my very eyes. It has been my direct observation that almost universally, they belong in either jail, a mental institution, or a hospital (maybe even a tuberculosis sanatorium). But maybe that is just Skid Row, and my local Midwest community's Occupy Wall Street encampment too, and everywhere else I have ever been in my life. It may be different elsewhere. So I invite you to explore the common fantasy vision of the kindly, maligned homeless person, with his pure spirit and detachment from materialistic society. Let me know when you find it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:07 PM on September 9, 2014


Are you, like, quadrupling down on the sarcasm? Because, at this point, getting weird.
posted by ormondsacker at 10:14 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


And I assume most of the people who voted for it spend a lot of time slapping themselves on the back over how dang Christian they are.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:47 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Panhandling is something only a small proportion of people in need would ever turn to; I think it requires a certain combination of socialization and personality. I know that there are so many people whose need is neither less urgent nor less legitimate than panhandlers and I (at least intellectually) don't feel bad for giving through avenues that are more likely to reach the less outgoing.

I like panhandlers, not because I enjoy being aggressively panhandled, but because panhandlers are an important way of viscerally reminding people with privilege about the fact that they are privileged.

I don't think that we should treat anybody, including panhandlers, as object lessons on poverty for the less poor. Especially because these 'lessons' are not exactly appropriately distributed. The richer you are, the more you're able to shelter yourself from them. The poorer the areas you live/work in, the more you use public transportation versus private cars, the more time you spend walking as a mode of transportation, the more panhandlers you will encounter. A person who goes from private home on private land/doorkeeper building in a car or taxi to the door of an office with security to airports and resorts and gated communities might never encounter a panhandler, while a person actually mired in working poverty (or introverted unemployment) might never get a peaceful subway ride or an unmolested walk home.

If a city does provide accessible (not just there to be found, but going out to find recipients) resources, services, and help for those who need it, it's not obvious to me that combatting panhandling is wrong. I think I would be opposed to fines or prison that would only make things worse, which makes it hard to see how to do so effectively, but treating regular panhandlers more like street vendors or entertainers who generally need licenses and must respect certain hours or locations, or possibly methods/volume/pressure tactics, etc, seems like it could go far to improve quality of life for a lot of people who are not exactly living high on the hog. (I am definitely opposed to nonprofits panhandling). If panhandling is regulated, it seems fair for giving to be as well. All this without defending (or critiquing) the specific policies of San Antonio.

I generally think of myself as progressive and am respectfully reading other opinions trying to be open to them.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:45 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's not nearly as cruel as what panhandlers did to my friend. Not even close.

Aren't there already laws against fraud for this?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:50 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Most people who voted for this are probably under the belief that the panhandlers aren't really poor. It is a common story that the panhandler is making more money than the person giving the donation.

I have often seen places that are high traffic areas turn into what appears to be a panhandling business. You'll see various panhandlers working the spot at different times of the day. Never more than one, never anyone competing. It appears that they are working shifts.

No doubt many panhandlers aren't in need. Of course it happens from time to time but banning all people from asking for a bit of help because of few bad apples is wrong.

That is why I tend to give to panhandlers who aren't working the major hot spots. Just last night I had someone ask me to buy them some food while I was at the grocery store. I don't think anyone could have accused him of pulling a scam
posted by 2manyusernames at 5:56 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


In my experience (in NYC, especially the subway) panhandlers are a segment of the homeless/hungry population with particular aptitude for making sales pitches.

I saw a woman come up to a stranger with a horribly blunt "I'm hungry." It was heart-wrenching. After seeing her do that five times over the course of a couple of weeks, I was less moved.

Obviously it's not like panhandlers are living the high life, but I'm not really a fan of panhandling as a means of charity distribution.
posted by leopard at 6:19 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Obviously it's not like panhandlers are living the high life, but I'm not really a fan of panhandling as a means of charity distribution.

As opposed to panhandlers themselves, who just love being in that position, I suppose.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:36 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not a fan of panhandling, but I fail to see how the problem is actually solved by arresting or fining people who are either doing it or giving money to them. If there are already laws against assault and such, against things like running out into traffic, then clearly the problem isn't that these panhandlers don't have enough legal discouragement for what's happening. What this allows is not some kind of massive campaign to get panhandlers off the streets and into programs they need, it allows cops to occasionally make residents feel better about the situation by roughing up someone who's already had a crap time of things, because now you don't have to wait for public indecency or whatever to happen, you can start arresting people before they've actually done anything wrong.

Give people an assurance of a roof over their heads and three square meals a day without any questions about their drinking or drug use, without any requirement that they behave in a socially acceptable fashion regardless of mental illness or addiction, and you'd see much less of this. But I've worked with things like church food programs, and I have to say, there's a distinct tendency for such ministries to favor the attractively poor. Not necessarily the beautifully poor, but definitely trying to avoid people who had hygiene problems, who had tempers, who swore when upset, who were actively using... unmedicated schizophrenics were very likely to get asked not to come back, probably faster than anyone else. Untrained church groups really can't be expected to help with that sort of thing, but where else are people like that supposed to turn?
posted by Sequence at 7:50 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Aren't there already laws against fraud for this?

That's what I told the police. They didn't buy it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:16 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


sadly, McManus' job review isn't for another two years.

While this was an (appropriately) sarcastic comment, the sick thing is -- he already has a new job lined up. He's leaving the SAPD to become security chief for the city-owned energy utility.
posted by Ranucci at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2014



Well, I can't tell which person is a con artist, which person has sought out resources, or which person is the right kind of deserving poor, just like I can't tell if a person parking in a handicapped space has an invisible disability or not

Well, one way is to spend time actually talking to them for awhile. The con artist I and my church family caught in a baldfaced lie after helping him on numerous occasions (after which we also found out he'd tricked other churches as well.)

The ones that truly break my heart are the ones who you can tell are broken by life/mental illness but are still fascinating people to get to know. And you would be surprised to know just how many -here at least-are talented musicians.

You do realize that only about a fourth of the homeless folk I have met have asked me for money? Not even kidding.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:40 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, and what I mean by that is-people who panhandle aren't always homeless, and not all homeless people panhandle.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:42 PM on September 10, 2014


Oh, and what I mean by that is-people who panhandle aren't always homeless

Perhaps they are members of the Amateur Mendicant Society.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:25 PM on September 11, 2014


Next time I see one of the regulars at his regular site I'm tempted to ask him.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:44 PM on September 11, 2014


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