Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Panhandling a part of urban experience?

Being a life-long Chicago-area resident, I have encountered panhandlers on countless occasions. My way of dealing with them varies based on my mood, but also on the way they conduct themselves.
Homelessness at very heart of Chicago

People who somehow manage to show me a touch of manners are more likely to get my sympathy, while those who think they can get pushy are most likely to tick me off and have me give them nothing.

WHICH IS SOMETHING I’m sure will offend those types of people who are trying to urge various local governments – including Chicago and some suburban communities – to repeal the ordinances they have enacted that try to restrict the ability of someone to seek a handout.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty sent letters this week to 15 municipal governments across Illinois – including Chicago and the suburbs of Aurora, Cicero, Elgin, Joliet and Oak Park – asking them to voluntarily repeal their restrictions.

Implying that the wrath of the ACLU and their allies could be wrought down upon us in the form of lawsuits if we don’t cooperate!
Panhandling? Or entertainment?

The Associated Press reported that the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless thinks laws against panhandling are wrong because they criminalize homeless people for their very existence – and that their actions in trying to get a handout are merely the acts of trying to survive.

THERE ALSO HAVE been rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States in the past that restrict laws against panhandling by describing such activity as freedom of expression. As in “free speech,” one has a right to walk up to you and ask for some spare change.

Of course, my comprehension of “free speech” is that no one is required to actually listen. We have a right to ignore things if we so choose – regardless of the morality behind such an unsympathetic act.
They/re not doing a leisurely lunch at Berghoff

So does the ACLU think we ought to be forced to pay attention to the homeless of our society? I would have a problem with that concept, because I’d compare it to the right of white supremacists to spew their nonsense rhetoric.

They may have a right to think such thoughts and say such trash publicly, but we, the people, have a right to disregard them as a batch of crackpots.

WHICH IS THE way I have been known to respond to beggars when they try to get pushy or intimidating. I have been known to be incredibly blunt and rude in telling them to drop dead.

But other times, if a person has been somewhat polite in their request, I have been known to reach into the pocket and give up some spare change.

Or one other time, I remember I actually pulled out a $10 bill and gave it to a woman – who was so thrilled she’d be able to get a “decent” lunch that day. Of course, she happened to catch my attention at the very moment I was headed to the Berghoff to have lunch with some former work-related colleagues.

I’m sure the lunch I had that day cost much more, and I would have felt like a total cheapskate if I couldn’t contribute a little something to her.

NOW I KNOW some of you are thinking I’m a fool. You’re going to want to believe these people are pulling some sort of scam and are just pocketing the money until it builds up into a significant sum – then they buy liquor or some form of illicit drugs with it to dull their sensibilities. Or that these are people “too lazy” to go out and “Get a Job!”
Nonsense image, but pizza is quite good. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
Although I must admit that if my life were to ever take a turn for the worse that I had to resort to soliciting people for their spare change, perhaps I’d need to resort to using something to numb my braincells.

Which is why I can’t help but notice all the individuals on the street corners with no place else to go and wonder if that is a worst-case scenario for my own life.

Because let’s face it, there are factors in life that can drag down anybody – no matter how superior we may believe ourselves to be.


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