Stephen Terence-Gould tells us that we should each
personally subsidize the substance addictions er, give money to panhandlers because, well, he knows a homeless man:
On my walks down the 16th Street Mall these days, I look ahead for Bill. He’s in a wheelchair now, with a container on his lap you can drop money into.
Bill is one of those homeless persons the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District says to “please help. don’t give.” in their anti-panhandling campaign. But I disagree with the campaign, especially for people like Bill.
I knew him from some years ago, in his days of pride and poetic talent and alcoholic rage. We both had volunteered for the monthly newspaper for the homeless, The Denver Voice. Bill slept in those big concrete sewers at construction sites, and wrote by flashlight, muting its glow within his sleeping bag. He was good.
On my Mall walks now, I look ahead to avoid Bill. I don’t want to feel the angst of confronting him face to face again.
At least Terence-Gould admits that his homeless friend is an alcoholic. You really don’t think that the money you give Bill is going to pay for a hot meal at Arby’s, do you? Anyway, proving that he’s a “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” kind of scold, Terence-Gould ends his article with:
So let me urge you, if you see Bill on the Mall, please feel whatever emotions you can. He’s a poet. Give him a buck. Denver’s Road Home – the city’s plan to end homelessness – does good work, but not really for someone like Bill.
So Terence-Gould can avoid Bill with a clear enough conscience, but the rest of us should drop something in his hat. Oh, and if you’re one of the heartless business owners who has the temerity to not like the idea of having a homeless man begging for spare change outside your shop, you’re a “social Puritan.”
There’s a simple solution to panhandling. Create a property right in the air space over the sidewalk and deed that property right to the adjacent business. Technically, anyone who walks through that air space is trespassing and the property owner, in this case the business, then has a legal right to tell that person to leave. The deed could grant an easement for sidewalk maintenance and law enforcement.
You heartless Puritan, you!