We’ve watched over the years as Oak Park has brought its mix of generous values and reasonable concerns and frustrations to the complicated issue of panhandling. Last week we reported on page one that Oak Park police have now made the conscious choice to warn and then arrest panhandlers who work the exit ramps off the Ike and at other high traffic intersections such as Harlem and North avenues.
With some reluctance we support this effort and agree that it is a matter of safety both for the panhandlers as the days darken and get icy and for motorists simply seeking a safe path home.
Michelle Auriemma, a new mom at 27 and a regular plying the narrow islands at North and Harlem, told our reporter, “Don’t judge me. … I’m doing the best that I can.”
We agree with the judging but with a 9-month-old living on the streets and a mother collecting coins on the corner, we also know that this woman and this village can do better and are prepared to do better.
Nothing here is simple. We grasp that much. But how often have we written about Housing Forward (formerly PADS) which is built to provide immediate care and then to work all angles for longer terms solutions. The clients need to want it and perhaps it is best that the police give them a nudge.
We’ve sat at the table when the Oak Park police and a range of social service agencies have worked together to craft options and possible solutions to limit panhandling. The will is there to help, the resources exist. The outcome will be imperfect but the effort has purpose.