Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Those advertisers

Yah, a Toronto radio station wanted to get some buzz going for their talk radio format, so they went out and hired real true homeless folks to sit around and hold the signs instead of actually panhandling; at least I think that was the idea, since they paid them a typical panhandling day's wage, whatever that is. The hat must be for the tips, a job well done.
More here.
Meanwhile, the panhandling debate is raging in Atlanta. There a dispute with a panhandler led to a death. Whoeever heard of such a thing?
It's probably the #1 question asked of yours truly when I go out and speak. "What about panhandlers."
My friend Joe M. sees it as a survival strategy.
I guess I've been aware of panhandlers standing uncomfortably close to my neighborhood ATM. It feels a little intimidating. Is that a reason to outlaw it? Because some seedy looking guy is asking me for thirteen cents (one of our old time local panhandlers was known as 'Thirteen Cents' because that's all he ever asked for, and always with a smile).
My problem: I know too many people panhandling for self-destructive reasons. And I really don't care to provide money for a heroin fix. And I'm really weary about the guys working this neighborhood near Nightwatch because I think they interfere with traffic and distract drivers. One guy goes right out into the road so he can work the left turn lane on Dearborn at Interstate 5. I bet he doesn't have to go more than two blocks to make his drug connection.
So, do something else nice. You can provide conversation (often appreciated) or power bar/bottled water. Or, put something in the mail so Nightwatch can keep on feeding and sheltering 180 people every night. We're running about $70,000 behind expenses at the moment. There are lots of alternatives to giving the guy with the cardboard sign a buck.
But know this -- I don't always follow my own advice.



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