Student advises against interacting with panhandlers

(Featured Image): Placard dissuades against panhandling on Newtown Rd. and E. VA Blvd.
Ross Winner|Marlin Chronicle

In a critique of panhandling, Palmisano advocates against giving to panhandlers on local streets.

Panhandling can be a conundrum for the United States and its cities. The problems with the practice of panhandling lie not with the people seeking assistance in the way of money or food, but instead with the way these people are going about it.

Institutions that help the poor and less fortunate, including such facilities as soup kitchens and homeless shelters, exist all across this country’s cities, and panhandlers undermine these institutions by encouraging passerby to donate to them rather than those charitable centers. 

Panhandlers distract others who have the means to donate money, food, or supplies to charitable organizations, both private and public. 

These organizations are much more likely to make more efficient and effective use of these items than an individual panhandler by making perishable goods last longer or by getting them to the people who need them most. 

The panhandling that occurs in Virginia Beach, especially around its major roadways, presents unique problems associated with the practice. 

Panhandlers can often be seen mere hundreds of feet from Virginia Wesleyan University’s grounds asking for food or money. 

This might not be a problem in and of itself, except that panhandlers usually stand in or around crowded intersections, taking the opportunity to solicit when cars are stopped at red lights.

These instances create situations where great danger can arise, both for the panhandlers themselves, who could be struck by passing vehicles, and the drivers, who could become victims of particularly aggressive panhandlers while stopped at red lights. In any case, this occurrence can create situations where conflict and danger for both parties can arise.

In addition to the tendency for panhandling to undermine charitable institutions both public and private as well as the dangerous situations panhandling often creates, some individuals are tempted to take advantage of the good will of others, pretending to be less fortunate in the hopes of acquiring money by panhandling.

Some say they have even seen vans dropping individuals pretending to be in need off at major intersections, and then later picking them up, likely to divide up the funds. 

This undermines the aforementioned charitable organizations, but also other panhandlers, who are actually in need of assistance. 

The practice of panhandling should be discouraged, since it undermines the institutions created by government and non-profit organizations to help the less fortunate, creates dangerous situations for both panhandlers and passerby alike, and allows unscrupulous people to take advantage of the good will of others at the expense of the legitimately needy.

It is better to put our resources into the good of the community as a whole where funds will be used to support these facilities to minimize panhandling as a whole. One can appreciate the comfort of knowing where one’s money is going.

By Christian Palmisano