Commentary by Henry Douglas
I think it is an egregious waste of our local government’s time to even consider a law designed to discriminate against people who have low-incomes. I wonder if our esteemed Mayor and the distinguished members of City Council see the irony in outlawing panhandling in Cleveland shortly after it has been declared the poorest city in the country. Yes, there are people who panhandle who are not necessarily homeless, but I sincerely doubt it is anyone’s first pick as a career choice. Unfortunately, it is rapidly becoming one of the few remaining career choices available as jobs in Cleveland continue to disappear on a daily basis.
The City Council would do better to explore alternatives to panhandling such as The Homeless Grapevine, which empowers individuals to sell a legitimate product while informing the community about issues affecting people who are homeless or have low-incomes. In the long term, the City Council would be wise to do something about our city’s schools, lack of affordable housing, or even address the reality that most people who live in Cleveland proper can’t afford to shop, eat, or be entertained in Cleveland.
It is a profound waste of time, if nothing else, to draft a law that would effectively obligate the few remaining members of the Cleveland Police (those who haven’t been laid off) to arrest people based on the dubious assertion that panhandlers are the reason rich suburbanites aren’t shopping at the stores in Cleveland which haven’t been deserted yet. It is my sincere hope that our city’s leaders start focusing on Cleveland’s real needs and priorities instead of wasting another second or cent on this discriminatory proposal.
Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #70, May 2005. All Rights Reserved.