Thursday, December 20, 2007

City: put your cash in our box rather than in a homeless person's hand

The city of Dallas is actually launching a campaign requesting people to not give money to panhandlers downtown, and to put money in "lend a hand" drop boxes instead. I guess it's a supply-side approach to panhandling. This is in the effort to "make people feel safer downtown." I know the city is really trying to address the problem of chronic homelessness with the new downtown assistance center, but sometimes they do some wacky stuff like this. It reminds me of Laura Miller's suggestion of making it illegal to give money to panhandlers. I swear I think if the city council could outlaw the presence of homeless people they would.

Many City Council members further argue that giving money to homeless panhandlers doesn't usually help them solve the underlying problems causing their homelessness.

FYI city council - on occassions when I give money to homeless people, I have no illusions that it is helping them solve any underlying problem. I am hopefully helping them to get some food. Granted they could use this money for booze or drugs or some other means of easing their pain which only adds to their problem. That is a risk I take. That is the reason I support the efforts of Austin Street Shelter, the Stewpot, and the city's new Homeless Assistance Center which can help to address underlying problems of homelessness.

I doubt the city's new measure will have much impact. There will still be homeless downtown and they will still ask for money. And we'll have these "drop boxes" downtown that will remind us to blow off the invisible people around us. The best thing the city and downtown businesses can do to make people feel safer is to continue the increased Downtown Patrol efforts (at least it seems stepped up to me), increase DART police presence at train stations, and keep attracting more people downtown.

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