Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can You Spare Them Some Help?

While I am terribly hurt by the jobs situation, and that lack of the opportunity for working people to support themselves and their families in any comfort, there is a problem with begging on the streets. Although I did propose that funding for certain programs in MD should be funded by Repugs begging in the streets, since they were creating the problem, I do see that some begging has gone pro.

At a place I worked near the LBJ Freeway, you could observe vans driving up in the early hours and letting out a contingent equipped with signs, lunches, that whole setup, to beg from the commuter traffic. That is the kind of approach that gives the right wing bases for insisting that anyone can work if he/she wants to, and gives them purchase in the public mind.

The professional panhandler, 'spanger', is the subject of this article by Steven Malanga:

Unlike their predecessors in the '70s and '80s, many of these new beggars aren't helpless victims or even homeless. Rather, they belong to a diverse and swelling community of street people who have made panhandling their calling.

Like most countries, America has always had its share of itinerant travelers, vagabonds and hoboes. But panhandling became a more pervasive and disturbing fact of urban life in the 1970s – a byproduct of the explosion in homelessness that resulted from rising drug use and the closing of state-run mental institutions.

By the crack epidemic's late-'80s peak, New York City in particular was home to a massive panhandling presence. The problem soon turned from irritating to alarming, as incidents of aggressive panhandling leading to violent crime began showing up regularly in the headlines.

The escalation – and other cities faced it, too – shouldn't have been surprising.

"If the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying passers-by ... it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugger or to interfere if a mugging actually takes place," wrote political scientist James Q. Wilson.

New York, fed up with the disorder, began to crack down on panhandling in the early '90s. Its success prompted other cities to follow suit – adopting community courts, forcing beggars to register for licenses (which discouraged them) and passing new anti-panhandling laws. These measures helped spark new development and interest in downtown districts across the country.

But over the last several years, the urban resurgence has proved an irresistible draw to a new generation of spangers.

There are a lot of organizations that will help out the really needy, and there are places like the Red Cross to go for help. It isn't actually necessary to beg on the street, and it's something that needs to be stopped for all of our sakes. We need to strengthen social support systems. That will be a lot easier if we aren't fighting the image of elements that want to prey on our generosity.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the author has (intentionally I would guess) overlooked is the returning veterans. In the 70s it was from Viet Nam, now it's from the war on terra. Many returning vets from Viet Nam came home disfunctional, unable to work or fend for themselves in other than the murderous ways in which they were trained and forced to live. I knew the same would happen this time. That the author totally ignores the veterans shows that, once again, they and their problems are officially being swept under the carpet.
I understand that manyu people panhandle to buy booze. But one must realize that sometimes people drink to quell the nightmares. That's what you can expect from our dog-eat-dog society.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

True, a lot of dysfunctional people are looking for a way to get by, and not getting the help they need. Without a support system, and without the economic successes that are needed to support a viable society, there are are a lot of people on the streets. How to handle that situation is not addressed here.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

....there are places like the Red Cross to go for help....
The Red Cross provides disaster relief, but this was one of the most reprehensible posts I've read outside the fascist blogs. Apparently, like Reagan, you are offended by the poverty of the poor who are responsible for the economy that created their situation.

Please spare the world the bigotry of bourgeois elitist fools such as yourself.


10:09 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Guess, Mike, you've never been involved in an assistance program. The Red Cross, and many others, (in my area a townwide association), provide assistance. The people who come in get fed, get clothed, get places to stay, and get job assistance. Begging on the street doesn't get any of the truly needy into a good place, and is very dangerous. Getting people off the streets is in their best interests. There's nothing evil about providing real assistance, and those efforts are available.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Panhandlers were very prominent in Washington, DC throughout the 80's and the beginning of the 90's. I see them today, but the numbers are limited. I was never accosted by a panhandler and I am not a large person nor am I young anymore. Typically they thank you when you give them money and many thank you even if you don't.

I didn't realize that it's a major problem. I may have somehow missed it.

I want to relate an anecdote with a panhandler. It was in 92 or 93, two of us were walk in Georgetown and a panhandler approached us and said: "I need a quarter to get on the Internet." We laughed and gave him a Dollar each.

In 93 the Internet was hardly a toddler most of the population didn't even know the term.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ruth, the 'double post" in the middle is confusing. Also Malanga's article seems to be seems to be more an opinion as he's rather lean & loose with 'facts'. For example, the "NeedCom Market Research For Panhandlers" site is an artistic project hosted by PBS that you can see here - NeedCom. I speak up as I'm quite curious about who these panhandlers are and why they do what they do. While having known a few of the "road warrior" kids over the years, I'm sure not everyone I see on a street corner is and I can think of few things tougher to do for money than to stand on a hot Austin corner day after day in the blazing sun. Plus I don't see many getting any money either. Moonies perchance?

4:56 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

oop, darms, I hadn't realized the double post happened, thanks, have put that right. I would imagine there are as many reasons for the spangers as there are for working folks, but they do nothing but harm to the truly down and out, and give the right wing a booster chair up to shout out against social support systems.

10:57 PM  

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