Quick link: If you are fed up with panhandling in Downtown Memphis, join our Handling-Panhandling online forum and let’s discuss what we can do about it.
Amos Maki’s article on panhandling ran in today’s Commercial Appeal. I’m quoted in it several times and this blog’s URL is mentioned. The article also has a good quote from Sgt.Vince Higgins from the MPD explaining why the way the laws are structured enables the panhandlers in Memphis, and it talks about what the CCC is doing to combat the problem as well.
The article also has a photo of panhandler Kevin Adair, who is one of the group that hangs out in front of Walgreens every day. In 30 minutes he made $13 begging, and it looks like he’s in his usual location. One of my readers pointed out that that’s $26 an hour, tax free. No wonder these guys panhandle! It makes me wonder why I bother having a job.
I do wish the article had drawn more of a distinction between the panhandling problem and the homeless problem. The most aggressive panhandlers Downtown are generally NOT homeless. For them, panhandling is a business. However, they do know that most people who come Downtown can’t tell the difference between a homeless person and a career panhandler, and they use this fact to hustle passersby. They’ll say, “Can you make a donation to help the homeless get a meal,” and then use they money for anything but food – usually liquor, beer or drugs.
I’ll close this post with the contents of a page I wrote for the Handling-Panhandling forum: A list of organizations Downtown who do good work to help the homeless – the legitimate homeless, not the street hustlers. Giving money to these organizations, instead of giving to the panhandlers themselves, would be money well spent.
This is a list of resources Downtown to feed and aid the homeless. As you can see, those on the streets have access to at least two free meals every day, sometimes more. Downtowners who wish to help the homeless are encouraged to support these organizations, rather than give money directly to panhandlers.
Calvary Episcopal Church, 102 N. Second – Hospitality HUB, open Wednesday and Friday, 1:00 to 4:00 PM, offers worship; spiritual guidance; traveler’s aid; help getting birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and state IDs for employment; lockers; computer access; and coffee and conversation. Free breakfast offered on Sunday mornings.
First Presbyterian Church, 166 Poplar – Soup kitchen every Sunday afternoon; clothes closet for the homeless Sundays 1:30-3:30 PM distributes work clothes and hygiene kits; vouchers for three area shelters handed out on Sunday afternoons.
Memphis Union Mission, 383 Poplar – Dinner + chapel + night’s shelter + breakfast for $6 a night, with four nights free a month, and free when below 32 degrees. Check-in by 6 PM. You can buy voucher books to hand out to panhandlers in lieu of money. Free lunches daily.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 155 Market – Soup kitchen 6 days a week, Monday-Saturday, with praise songs at 6:30 AM; coffee and cookies 7:30 AM; a meat sandwich, soup, and a treat between 9 and 10 AM; patrons may come back for all the peanut butter sandwiches they can eat.
The Street Ministry, 600 Poplar – Assistance for those with substance abuse, dependency, and mental illness problems. Participants are given vouchers for the Union Mission in exchange for their willingness to enter treatment, seek employment, support others, and address their primary issues.