On Worcester’s panhandlers and burn-outs

By Sharon Nietsche

There is a move to get the panhandlers off the streets. Not a ban but “something,” some way. I read an article about this. My reaction to the very casual attitude of the article was “Really?” We are talking about the city using lawyers, paid for by the citizens’ taxes no less, to find a sneaky way around the first amendment. Really. So my initial concern about this is a concern for the integrity of the constitution. Not in just this instance but lately in a lot of ways. I think our forefathers would be frightened for us. Okay, that said, and it is my biggest concern far and away; my concern for the constitution, but let’s look at this particular issue on it’s merits.

My first question to the people considering this. Have you put a lot of thought into this?Any thought? How about using some intelligence and looking into the question of why these people find themselves out there on the street in the first place and work on that angle.

It certainly can’t be easy to stand there. It would be much easier to sit at a pencil pushing job. Try offering them that. Like one of the jobs that the relatives of politicians get. Try offering them one of those. You’d get them all off the streets. (Hard not to get acerbic at this level of hypocrisy.)

I can think of so many solutions other than a “ban.” A ban is so heavy handed. So un- american. Some out of the box solutions come to mind. Remember Einstein said “The problems we have will not be solved using the same -thinking that created them.
How about offering the panhandlers a place to go. To sit and read and have a cup of soup and pay them $20 to stay there for the day. Would be cheaper than sending the police around to inforce this “ban” in gas money alone never mind for the police time it would involve. And that is just one quick thought there have to be many other less heavy handed solutions.

Think too many people would take advantage of that? Why is that? Are things “tough all over”? Well then look to the cause. Look what politicians have done to this country. Is your country worth it to do the research? Why does congress have a 7% approval rating? And this isn’t a digression. There is a cause and effect as to why so many more people are down and out and begging now and to see that you have to look at the bigger picture. And it is not a pretty picture.

But back to “Have you put a lot of thought into this?” Let’s put some thought into it right now.

About 10 years ago, when I saw people standing out on the street panhandling for money for food I was very concerned about it, concerned that people would be going hungry in the city. I called the Telegram and was told that most if not all the panhandlers were drug addicts or alcoholics trying to raise money for their habit.
So let’s say this is the case. That many of the panhandlers are trying to raise money for their habit. They get a little money and get what they need, get their drugs and or alcohol. Then get up and do the same thing the next day.

What happens when you take away this source of money for them to get what they need? I am going to leave some space for you to think about it. Just for a minute give it some thought.

That’s right. Not hard to figure. They are going to have to get their money some other way. People addicted to drugs and alcohol will many times do some pretty desparate things to get what they need.

Do you want your house broken into? Your car broken into? Do you want to be mugged?

My mother worked for many years at R. H. Whites at Lincoln Plaza. This was more than twenty years ago. It was close to our house so she walked back and forth to work. One Friday after she cashed her check, and was walking home through the parking lot, a car pulled up next to her and an occupant of the car grabbed her purse. Her purse was on her arm in such a way that she couldn’t immediately let go of it so she was dragged by the car, a white haired woman in her late fifties. She was bruised but thank God she was okay. This was before addicts had the option of panhandling, it just what they did back then.

To the people who want to “ban” panhandling, just one obvious question. Can you guarantee that crime won’t go up? If a drug addicts source of maintenance revenue is outlawed or in some way eliminated another source of revenue will immediately have to be found.

When you push a problem away to where you can’t see it, does the problem ever go away? Ever?

A different solution to the “problem” of this unattractive display of freedom of speech is this. When you look at a person panhandling say to yourself. “Thank god we still live in a free country. Thank god this is not North Korea. Maybe we could even pass out flags to the panhandlers that say “God bless America, God bless invidual freedoms.” So when people come into our city they will know how much we respect our constitution and our individual freedoms here.

The second attack on freedom is the story of late that some in the city might want to stop the Summer Nationals. I have never been a fan of the Summer Nationals. It’s not my cup of tea. Ten years ago when I was very involved with the Green Party, I thought the smoke they used to create on Main Street was pretty stupid. But even as a Green I never thought they shouldn’t be allowed to have their weekend of what they considered to be fun, Every day all that smoke would be a problem, but one weekend a year certainly could be accomadated because a hundred thousand people are having fun.

Again a hundred thousand people are having fun. I don’t think that should be something to be taken lightly. You don’t see too much of that in Worcester. You can’t put a price on people enjoying themselves. It’s priceless. In one article there was a question of whether or not businesses in the city were making any money. Say what? A hundred thousand people come into the city and don’t spend any money? Did they pack a two day lunch and drive to Worcester in solar cars?

One comment that really bothered me from a Worcester city councilor was this one and I quote: “This is the best we can do for Main Street in Worcester on the Fourth of July?” I would like to say to this person: What event did you sponsor? When did you bring 100,000 people into the city to have fun? The guy who does the Summer Nationals actually did it. If you don’t like this image, if you don’t like the image this creates about Worcester don’t whine about it, create an event yourself. Create an event that outshines this one. Encourage others to have all kinds of events here. Be a city of huge variety, have all kinds of events here.

Vive la difference.

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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