Money for nothing

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Photo by Brooke Morill

When jobs are low and pockets are empty, what is a Utah resident to do?

Elizabeth Suggs | Staff Writer | [email protected]

In today’s world where many are out of a job, panhandling may be the only option to ensure food gets served on the table. This is, of course, if a panhandler is using the money given to them to buy food.

Some panhandling is actually illegal. Aggressive panhandling, which includes intimidating behavior, following someone down the street, blocking the sidewalk, touching, etc., is not protected by free speech.

What is protected, however, is passive panhandling, but local governments can put place, time and manner restrictions on passive panhandling.

UVU has done just that. According to UVU police, panhandling is not allowed in or outside the premises.

That didn’t stop one man who carried on asking for change from nearby students. A little while later the UVU police arrested him, and not for the first time either.

“Panhandling isn’t just a thing some homeless people do,” UVU student Chris Jorgensen said. “It’s an actual profession to some.”

Panhandling is a problem and takes away opportunities for those truly in need when those who are not homeless choose to panhandle. There’s even a Wiki page on “How to Panhandle: 17 steps.”

“Most people that are homeless and need food don’t ask,” Utah resident Schadie Brown said.

“Anyone asking for money cannot be trusted. However, it’s different when those are asking for food, place to sleep, clothes, etc.”

Brown told me her personal experience with giving to a homeless man on the street, and expressed her concern for those who do ask for money.

“I gave a man on the streets $10 once, and the first thing I saw him do was go to Burger King and get some food with the money I gave him,” Brown said. “[But] the people that have signs up asking for money, never use that money to get what they need.”

With a lot of controversy on the subject, many believe it to be unwise to trust a panhandler. Many government websites regarding panhandling express concern and tell others not to give money to panhandlers.

From the way I look at it, panhandling used to be something only the neediest did because panhandling itself is desperate. Who would want to be labeled as a panhandler?

There are others who don’t agree with my argument; others who have been in or near positions similar to that of the panhandler and have only the utmost respect and love for the panhandlers.

“I have no problem with panhandling or panhandlers,” Utah resident Devin Adams said. “I always give my change or leftovers to them.”

When those who need money and food are afraid to ask for anything because others use panhandling as a way to earn easy money, that’s when we have a problem. Not helping the needy can ruin societies, but more rigorous work should be done to ensure the society’s well-being before we mistakenly give money to those who don’t really need it.

Jorgensen believes that there are particular steps that can be taken to help those truly in need.

“A better care system would fix it, actually giving a budget to real organizations who help the homeless,” he said. “Start there and get the real people with problems into a better situation and that will weed out the people who exploit it.”

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