“Telegram” on Panhandling

posted by Mike on July 12th, 2005

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette had a long, front-page article on Worcester’s anti-panhandling campaign this Sunday, written by Taryn Plumb. The article gave lots of space to those who disagree with the city’s plan:

“Why are we wasting so much time, effort and money on a few panhandlers?” asked community advocate Peter Stefan, who owns Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Home on Main Street. “We’re turning an M&M into a basketball. We have people dying of AIDS, people starving, people who can’t afford to buy medicine for their kids. I don’t get it.”

And the article quoted a few words from the street:

“It’s legal to stand here and say hello,” Jimmy Fahey said, standing alongside Chandler Street. “You’re not giving money to someone to buy drugs. You’re helping someone keep their head above water.”

His friend, a panhandler who did not wish to be identified, was a bit more indignant.

“Panhandling is not the answer,” he said mockingly. “Not the answer to what? What do they know about my problems?”

The article was accompanied by a shorter one by Ms. Plumb giving her firsthand account of a day spent panhandling.

I’ll admit that my experience as a panhandler in Worcester wasn’t typical: I am a young woman, not exactly the status quo. I’m sure that fact tugged a bit more at the heartstrings of passing motorists.

But it did give me the opportunity to feel, if only a little bit, what panhandlers feel: shame, degradation, rejection.

And it wasn’t any of those feelings that affected me. I was fully prepared for them. They come with the territory.

For me, it was the sting of being invisible, ignored, hated, ostracized–just for standing on the street corner with a cardboard sign.

This is the first time in awhile that the T&G has done excellent coverage of a local issue I care about. Kudos.

Update: See our summary of the panhandling campaign and other Worcester poverty issues.

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