Saturday, October 21, 2017

Panhandling and the First Amendment

Known Scammer; has an apartment, social security and isn't disabled.
Over the last few years many civil groups have stepped up for panhandlers using our first amendment, Freedom of Speech in order to circumvent the local municipal laws in many cities and areas. Sadly, this has  created a new issue, one of many people scamming everyday citizens on street corners, flooding areas with an increase in those wanting a handout and the like. (Trust me Ive seen this first hand since I study panhandling and the issues it creates here in Roanoke)

As I've discussed before, you can actually fight panhandling without any laws, legally and rightfully, but today I wanted to talk about the overall effects this loophole has created within our communities.

Panhandling Population Increase

Since many people use the Freedom of Speech as a way to circumvent the laws, there has been a panhandling population increase within our area. This has created an issue with people feeling safe, not to mention it creates a "turf" issue among those trying to get your cash.

As the panhandling population has increase, everyday pass byer's see more of them, which actually effects the panhandlers bottom line. See if you are going to fall for someone being on the side of the road with a sign, then you are only going to have so much to hand out. If you see 5 panhandlers in a given day, chances are you are going to give that cash to the first or second one you see, leaving the other 4 with your cash.

Now those panhandlers are not dummies, they're street smart. What do they do? Simple, they move on after an hour or two often trying another location that isn't providing them with enough cash.

Another side effect of too many panhandlers is that it creates sort of a are turf issue. Sometimes panhandlers become aggressive among each other, many carrying knifes or weapons with them, that's something that a locally known panhandler admitted on social media earlier in the summertime.

Sense of Entitlement and Enabling

As we've talked about many times, giving cash to someone that's trying to get it from you enables them. When you hand out a few bucks, you might not think its a lot and you're right, but when you combine that with 10-20 other cars that also hand out cash on a given day, it's actually a lot of tax free money that the panhandler doesn't have to claim on their taxes (if they even do them).

Many that stand have a sense of entitlement, feeling like YOU the driver should give them money because of whatever excuse they have.

Much like a child, if you enable them by rewarding them (giving them cash) they are more likely to continue to stand out there and others will want to try the same thing, after all you're handing out free money, so why not?

Tourism is Effected

Roanoke, a small southern city with friend people, lot of outdoor activities, Mill Mountain Star, Downtown Roanoke at the Farmers market, the Blue Ridge Parkway, that down to earth home feeling. Sounds wonderful right? Well, it should be.

Then enter panhandlers.

Not just one, but 80+ (and its been growing since 2016). That's how many unique individuals we've spotted in the last year alone, just in the Star City.

Would you want to visit an area where there are tons of people just asking you for cash all the time?

I doubt it. (If you are please contact me, I'd gladly take your money here, haha)

Many Tourism and marketing departments are trying hard to promote great, local communities all throughout the United States, being plagued with people all throughout them asking for your cash make areas look trashy and not to mention the trash they leave behind too.

Business is Effected

When tourism is effected, so are businesses great and small, plain and simple. As we've talked about before, panhandling near area businesses slow down customers and customer growth and also it creates issues with the areas around the business, trash, theft and destruction as in the case of a business on Franklin Rd in Roanoke that we talked about on our Facebook Page.

Scammers vs Those Really in Need

Perhaps the biggest issue is weeding out those that really are in need and those that scam in order to get a dollar. Many panhandlers have figured out that if they intermix with the those that really need the help, they themselves will get your money. Many are quite good at playing the part too.

Sadly for us however, it's hard to figure out who is who.

If you give to a scammer, well you're NOT helping someone in need. 

We've talked about some things to be on the look out for when it comes to those that are in need vs. those that are scamming you, while it's not 100% fool proof, the article should help you size up if you feel needed to give.

It's all about the Cash; Lawyer; Panhandler

It's all about the cash, plain and simple. Panhandlers want it, lawyers get it from organizations and panhandlers that take your cash in the first place.

How would you feel if the cash you gave to someone went to a lawyer that was  taking a local government to court so they could panhandle more-so?

In 2017, I took to the streets myself to panhandle, to see how it was done, how people acted towards me and to see how much cash I could make being aggressive in a few of the most popular areas of the city, man even I was surprised how much I made!

Let's be real, the issue isn't really about Freedom of Speech, its about those involved being able to make money, legally or not. Lawyers are happy to suck in the dollars and panhandlers are happy to stand there and "fly their sign" as they often like to call it and take your cash.

While the First Amendment allows us to have Freedom of Speech, it doesn't give us the right to scam people saying they are homeless when they are not, saying they're a vet when they actually never served and the like. That's preying on you and your piggy bank.

The great thing is that we as citizens have a way to combat issue like panhandling, BUT it takes a village as people say. If you want to stop panhandling in your area of the United States, stop handing out cash. You have to educate people, make citizens aware of the people that scam for a living (it's actually easier that you might think if you just watch for the signs).

Stop the panhandling; simple. Stop handing out the cash.
People think you have to have a law to stop panhandlers, well it's helpful, you really don't need it. Let them stand out there with a sign, just don't give money. if they are aggressive, well that's different, call the police if you are threatened.

As is the case with a local panhandler here, once the internet knew about her and what shes does by scamming others, her source of funding dried up and shes been trying other local area cities for cash. Ironically, it was her own doing that let to her own demise, using a puppy to panhandle and then assaulting someone across the street where she was standing.

My point, stop handing out the cash, they'll move on and you will not have a problem.

Giving to an Organization; NOT a Panhandler

If you want to help out the community, give your cash to an organization that can help those get off the streets. They have MUCH GREATER buying power when it comes to food, clothes and even paying bills than you handing out a few bucks.

Let me give you a couple of examples. The Rescue Mission here in Roanoke. They have such great buying power with national organizations that a dollar, a single one dollar will feed 10 meals to 10 different people.

Our new non-profit, Blessing Bags, has the ability to create a bag filled with 10 items for about $2 (was $5-10 but we've been growing and meeting with companies like Amazon to help us when we do need to buy things). That one dollar will fill half a bag of items for homeless and needy right here in Roanoke.

My point, giving your dollar to someone on the street; could go to something good or something bad like drugs, booze, etc. it's hard to say.

While there are people on the streets in need, it may surprise you that roughly 60% of those panhandling in our area are actually living pretty good, mostly on the generosity of everyday people. Where is their sense of maturity if we are paying for them to live a lifestyle that's not considered being homeless?

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