29 May 2008

"I already gave at the Box."

Last week Indianapolis installed five donation boxes downtown. The boxes, along with a large public education campaign, are aimed at discouraging people from giving to panhandlers and encouraging them to "chip in at the box" instead. The money will be given to organizations that help the homeless. Other cities have been able to reduce panhandling in this way; you can read more about the idea here.

On the one hand, it seems like a good idea; panhandling certainly doesn't solve the problem of homelessness. But these comments from our panhandling-hating, infinitive-splitting mayor gave me pause:

At a news conference Thursday, Mayor Greg Ballard and advocates for the homeless said most panhandlers are not homeless -- they are scam artists betraying people's trust and good intentions. "If you want to truly help the homeless, give to the groups who provide the services that make people more productive," Ballard said. "The panhandlers will go away when the money goes away."
The argument for The Box is that it is a better way to help the homeless, but its real purpose is to eliminate panhandling. I guess I'd rather the city do this than try to ban panhandling, which has been done in numerous places, including Durham County. But to couch it in terms of helping the homeless seems disingenuous to me. As someone who used to ask for money for a living, I think it's clear that The Box doesn't do any favors for people who live by panhandling; it is a public service for people who are interested in helping others without touching or looking at them.

1 comment:

Dan Morehead said...

"...these comments from our panhandling-hating, infinitive-splitting mayor..."

Ha. Good post. Didn't know you were blogging. How great.