Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Tarnished Crown

My rant on what’s wrong in the Queen City


I do not know if panhandling is any more of a problem in our city than in other cities. I might have only anecdotal data from people saying panhandling is worse here than Columbus, or Louisville, or 'insert city' here. I have said those types of things myself. I cannot remember a time when I have been to downtown Columbus and I have been approached for money for instance. But to be fair, I do not live there and there are probably areas of Columbus that have panhandling issues.

But as an Over the Rhine resident who walks to work downtown, the issue is in my face nearly every day. Many days, I get approached multiples times. It is more annoying than anything. I generally say "no" and keep moving. When friends visit from out of town I always have to repeat, "Just keep walking." I’ve had a few times where it has been more than an annoyance. One guy knocked my hat off my head in disgust I guess when he didn’t like my answer. One guy followed me for half a block asking if he could have one of my beers instead. (Note: If ever carrying beer downtown, say home from Garfield Mini Market, get it in a bag.) And then there is the guy who actually admitted he had a drug problem when I told him he used the same story on me the week before. Joe Wessel has actually blogged about that guy. And while I know the people who just hold their signs are not in violation of the Panhandling Ordinance, I still hate seeing them lined up on 2nd Street before and after Red’s games for instance.

Speaking of the Cincinnati Panhandling Ordinance, the Downtown Residents Council website has a great summary. It states:

All material taken from City Ordinance 910-12. Improper Solicitation.

The ordinance defines panhandling as making a vocal request for money on public or private property. However, sitting or standing with a sign is fine, day or night, as long as the person does not make any verbal request. Solicitor does not need a license for holding a sign. Panhandling licenses are available at no charge to the solicitor and must be visible during any vocal solicitation.

It is a crime to panhandle in the following places:
In any public transportation vehicle (bus, shuttle, etc.) or at any bus stop.
Within 20 feet of an ATM or bank entrance.
From any person driving or getting into or out of a motor vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, etc.)
Within 20 feet of a crosswalk.
From any person standing in line waiting to enter a store, restaurant, etc.
On private property without permission of the owner.
After sunset AND before sunrise.
It is a crime to panhandle in an aggressive manner by:
Blocking a person's access into or out of a building or vehicle.
Alarming, intimidating, threatening, menacing, harassing or coercing.
Following behind, ahead or along side someone and continuing to bother them after they have said "NO."
Using foul or abusive language or gestures during or after a request for money.
Touching or laying hands on someone without that person's permission.
It is a crime to lie or mislead people while panhandling by:
Claiming the money is needed for a specific need (like food or gas), when it really isn't.
Claiming the money is needed for a reason that does not exist (to feed "kids" that do not exist, etc.)
Claiming to be from out of town, stranded or homeless when that is not true.
Claiming to be a member of the military (current or prior) when that is not true.
Claiming to be mentally or physically disabled when that is not true.

The website also gives tips on dealing with panhandlers and phone numbers to call if you feel threatened.

"If you feel threatened, seek out a uniformed Police Officer or a uniformed DCI Downtown Ambassador. To reach an Ambassador, call 623-3429 or contact the Cincinnati Police Department at 765-1212."

I now have both of those numbers programmed in my cell phone. I have never used them but just good to have as a greater downtown resident.

So what is the answer? Um, I don’t know and I don’t have one. I am probably just venting. But I refuse to not walk on certain streets because of the panhandlers. These are my streets too.

Oh, and if you have ever seen South Park’s "Night of the Living Homeless" episode, I think it is pretty funny. Is that wrong of me?


scprideandms said...

From my volunteer work with the homeless it is my experience that over 1/2 of the panhandlers are not homeless, not out of work, not broke, etc.

For a majority of them it's their job. After 2 years I can pretty much tell who is truly "flying their sign" because they have no other options and those who are doing it just to get money for their "habit" (not that those who are homeless aren't doing the same thing).

If in doubt, quick test is to say "I won;t give you the money but I will (insert whatever it is they are saying they need the money for (buy you a meal a bus ticket, etc). If they no to your offer, then they are lying and I'll look at them and say "When you decide to tell the truth, let me know and we'll talk".

Just my 2 cents worth.......

Sue said...

So, the extreme poverty found in downtown/OTR is not on the list of what makes this city great, eh?

Dan said...

I wouldn't classify it as extreme poverty. I suspect the poverty here is similar to levels found in many other cities our size and larger. But panhandling is something I get tired of and in my opinion tarnishes the city. This blog is about what is great about this city (which there is much in my opinion) and pointing out those things that are not so great.