We Need Panhandlers

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By John Hubbuch

Ken Trainor's column this week nicely describes the ambivalence and uncertainty we feel about panhandling. On the one hand the panhandlers are annoying intrusions, but we  also feel sorry for them. What to do?

Like many problems this one can't be solved. While you can eradicate certain infectious diseases, society probably can't do much long term to help the 1%, not the top 1%, but the bottom. Pandhandling in Oak Park is a microscopic version of Africa. We just have too many things to worry about. Suffering is everywhere on the planet, but we lack the resources to allievate all of it. So we give what we can to find cures for childhood diseases and to rescue cute dogs. There just isn't much left over for poor, dirty, smelly homeless people.     

Now the reason panhandling is an issue in Oak Park is not because of a concern for the panhandlers. It is because the merchants worry that their  presence has a less than salutary effect on the shopping environment.                                                         

Ken concludes his column by asking for suggestions as to what we might do to address the panhandling issue. I say do nothing. I'm guessing all the panhandlers know what social services are available, but have proven to be inadequate.  I favor a capitalistic solution, straight cash. If for whatever reason a poor soul has to beg for money from complete strangers, then give it to him if you have some. If he chooses to use that money to buy a plastic 750ml bottle of cheap vodka so be it. There will be some temporary relief from the pain  of life.

Panhandlers are a part of society. We need to see them. They are our dark mirror. They are reminders that  but for God, luck or fate go us.

Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Eilene McCullagh Heckman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 5th, 2012 1:05 PM

Shame on you. The panhandlers that are concerning people are the ones who are not necessarily lucid enough to be able to take advantage of social services. Mental illness, addiction... even illiteracy are huge roadblocks that the average person doesn't understand unless they've been there. The "they're there by choice" attitude is extremely naive, short-sighted, and dangerous. I think 99.9% of people who want the homeless "off the street" really want to see them getting some help towards sobriety and mental health. And not because they're smelly... but because it's the right thing to do.

Op rez  

Posted: December 26th, 2011 8:55 AM

Um, what about the panhandlers who are verbally and physically abusive? The recent incidents are not because businesses don't want them, but because of the aggressive behavior of some panhandlers. It's one thing to accept panhandlers as a part of our society, and as a reminder that life is unfair, cruel... It's another thing to accept their presence when they've shown them selves to be aggressive.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: December 25th, 2011 3:38 PM

I do want to point out that people who are really in need, are the ones who will never ask for money. People who can't fit into the job world will ask for money. A few will make it into a full time job. If we can't say Merry Christmas to the public any longer, when that is the reason people have the day off, and Christmas tree lots, etc., and try and deny this as being fact, then enlist those people to resolve the homeless problem so everyone is politically correct and has the same opportunities

joe from south oak park  

Posted: December 25th, 2011 9:51 AM

I think what people are forgeting is how common mental illness is in the lives of the homeless and panhandlers. We have allowed the government to defund mental health resources for decades and what we see now is the result. I've been physically assaulted by a panhandler in Chicago and being followed and screamed at on Lake St. in Oak Park for politely refusing to give a panhandler money. Maybe that has allowed me to take a harder view.

We Need Panhandlers...........  

Posted: December 22nd, 2011 4:35 PM

.....in front of John Hubbuch's home on a daily basis.

Aging Disgracefully from Oak Park  

Posted: December 20th, 2011 10:35 AM

Sad, but true. What you leave out is that it's occasionally scary.

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