Left In Lowell

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November 12, 2013

AtB: Handling Pans

by at 3:19 pm.

The current gentrify-du-jour being a no-panhandling ordinance on tonight’s Council agenda, it’s no surprise some bloggers around here are writing about it.

Downtown resident/consumer kad has quite an equitable point of view: fine, cleaning stuff up is great, and we all want successful downtown businesses but

i think, if anybody’s asking me, the problem is first in perceiving these people as something, like bathroom waste, in need of “clean up”. we often ridicule other people for believing that “their shit don’t stink”, and, i think, here in lowell, we’ve got more than a few people who want to lay in a lifetime supply of febreeze and renuzits and just keep clouding the air with a bunch of sociological perfume in complete denial that we have a significant population of people who are challenged to “make it” in any way, shape or form recognizable to us in our centrally-heated, indoor plumbed luxury accommodations.

He also has a second post. As for my own opinion on the panhandling ordinance, I’m rather of a mind with kad - I sympathize with the downtown businesses and residents, but I worry that we’re shuffling the less fortunate out of our way so we don’t have to see them, and be uncomfortable. And the idea of fining a homeless person $50 for panhandling - whether he buys food, or booze with his proceeds - is patently stupid. Good luck collecting, or making your point. These are already people who are outside of the system and marginalized.

Chris at Learning Lowell is also on the subject of panhandling.

Aurora and I discussed it, and she summarized our opinions thusly:

I have a couple of concerns about it. I’m worried about a lack of commitment to outreach about the law and alternative options to panhandlers, creating a larger gulf between police (and social services) and the homeless population, and logistics of paying the fine. I’m also not sure what happens if the perpetrator cannot or will not pay a fine. Is this going to get people thrown in jail? Finally, I worry it will just “push” the problem to other areas of the City without addressing root issues.

A little bit older now, but I haven’t linked to it yet was Dick Howe’s “The ‘Cambodian vote’ in the 2013 city election”. In it, he looks at the numbers and tries to see how last Tuesday’s results for the Cambodian Council candidates happened:

My first theory was that the number of active Cambodian voters may be a fixed number that with the 2011 turnout of 9,946 was sufficient to win a seat but proved insufficient when the 2013 turnout rose to 11,581. Looking at the ward by ward performance by both Nuon and Pech in both 2011 and 2013 disproved that theory. Both made substantial gains in wards that have the most Cambodian voters (Wards 2, 3, 4, and 7). However, that same comparison shows that both Nuon and Pech, but especially Nuon, lost a substantial number of votes from 2011 to 2013 in the wards that have the fewest Cambodian voters (Wards 1, 6, and 9 – both also lost ground in Ward 8 which has a substantial Cambodian population but has other issues that will be a subject of a future post).

There are some great comments there, too.

Dick also has his always-valuable Week in Review. And of course, there are a ton of other posts from this last week on his blog on culture, history, and the arts.

Greg has a quick, but interesting post about the oft-ignored School Committee race. He says, “There will be time later on for more analysis, but for now this may suggest there is a “Challenger Bump” enjoyed by School Committee candidates, followed by a time of great vulnerability (first re-election attempt).”

Finally, there is an awesome Jen Myers post on her Room 50 blog about the recent visit of former, first female President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. Jen always brings events to life with her photography.

28 Responses to “AtB: Handling Pans”

  1. Christopher Says:

    If we want to reduce/eliminate panhandling we should be reducing/eliminating the need to panhandle rather than finding yet another way to criminalize poverty.

  2. Greg Page Says:

    I think we should be careful about framing the panhandling thing as a simple “good people vs. bad people” morality play. Some of the voices I’ve heard complaining about it the loudest are those of downtown business owners who have lived and worked here in the city for decades, so I don’t think it’s a case of Buffy and Miff, or New Lowell, or whoever your villain of choice is, feeling disgusted because he or she saw a destitute person in public and was just, like, totally grossed out.

    Remember the squeegee men from the Giuliani/Bratton days in NY? The problem was much smaller in reality than in perception. Still, the perception was enough to discourage tourism and business.

    From New York Magazine:

    “But it turned out there was an end, and, incredibly, a pretty quick one. Once the police finally dug into the matter, they figured out that there were only about 75 or so squeegee men. As Peter Powers, Giuliani’s old friend and first deputy mayor during those early years, joked to me recently, “We found out they were a pretty small union.” They were gone in about a month’s time. Something had gone strangely right. People, however tentatively, started whispering that maybe New York was governable, at least around the edges. “It was very visible,” says Powers, “and it didn’t cost us a lot.”

    I’m not saying I have the answers on this…I definitely don’t. My hunch is that other cities have dealt with issue, too…maybe we can draw on some of what they’ve learned.

    I think Lynne’s and Kad’s responses are very *safe* (there are poor people with needs, and there are also businesses with valid concerns) but I admit that’s how I feel about it, too — my stance isn’t any bolder or more heroic. From the years I’ve lived downtown, I can say for sure that panhandling has increased in the last year or so, and in a very tiny radius in terms of square mileage, just a couple people (the ‘out-of-gas’ kid from Andover, and a particularly aggressive young male who ‘works’ on Appleton) can make a massive difference in terms of the perception of a person visiting, working, or just trying to walk down the street in peace.

    Putting their sort of behavior in check has nothing do with compassion towards the poor.

  3. Publius Says:

    A couple of observations.

    The social worker defending panhandling downtown is only trying to preserve his future job prospects.

    An awful lot of homeless people testified. What did the welfare/social work industrial complex do – hire a bus to bring them down to City Hall to testify with prepared scripts? Perhaps the homeless shelter needs an earlier curfew.

    One of the homeless speakers claimed he was disabled. He looked perfectly healthy to me. Perhaps his disability is an allergy to work.

    One man showed a picture of a woman pushing a shopping cart and asked if she would be arrested. Typical left wing trick – giving a parade of imaginary horrible. The woman is not panhandling, so she would not be arrested. At least, she is actually working and doing something useful that benefits society. Panhandling has no benefit to society. He was right in saying something should be done about those kids causing havoc downtown.

    The argument that such an ordinance is criminalizing poverty is specious at best. It is bad behavior that is being criminalized, not being poor.

    A month or so ago, I was gassing up at a gas station and I was approached by a man asking for money so he could get home to Boston. Since I was going to work, I offered him a ride to Boston instead. HE refused and insisted on money instead in an aggressive manner.

    Over the years, I have offered buy food for the panhandlers. Nine times out of ten, they refuse the generous offer.

    One problem I have with the ordinance is that it is limited to the downtown. This would push the problem into other areas of the city like the Lower Highlands. The ordinance should cover the entire city.

    Another problem is the people who are enabling the people the enablers. Maybe we should fine the people who give the panhandlers. If the panhandlers are not given money, they would leave. At least the people who give money to panhandlers would be able to afford the fine.

  4. Joe Says:

    I think this was a tough vote but also an important vote. There has been a sharp rise in “professional panhandlers “. If you’ve lived in an inner city then you can tell the difference between somebody that truly needs help because of mental illness, someone that is a drug addict and someone that is a lazy fuck. The number of able body panhandlers is on the rise. This is cutting into the “market” for the other two types of panhandlers. This makes them both more bold and more aggressive. Last December I saw one of the able bodied young men panhandling outside the entrance to the burlington mall. Five hours later I saw the same exact guy outside the pheasant lane mall. This isn’t the case of someone with nowhere to go so they say screw it and make a cardboard sign and set up shop on a street corner. These people have cars and cell phones. It’s a disgrace

  5. Joe Says:

    I also think there is a deeper impact caused by these professional panhandlers. Panhandling is a nuisance but its just something that you have to deal with if you live in a city. Panhandling is a very desperate act by a desperate person. These professionals are not desperate. They are lazy. As more and more of these able bodied panhandlers come into the city ( or any city) it blurs the line between those who need and those that want. As this line gets blurrier the population will just throw up their hands and just say no to all of them. It not only damages the truly desperate person but it also damages us as a community. It’s not a fatal blow to our humanity but its a tiny little chip. That’s unacceptable.

  6. Magnolia Says:

    I’m with Publius, Greg, and Joe. It is a little hard to feel sympathy for panhandlers when you are approached no less than 4 times between the Market Street garage and St Anne’s. We want visitors to our city to feel welcome, and our downtown businesses to able to do business without someone out in front asking for money.

  7. Christopher Says:

    Alot of offensive judgement going around against people about whose lives I can virtually guarantee you know nothing. “Professional panhandler” sounds alot like “welfare queen”. Publius’s comment especially is just offensive on so many levels.

  8. Joe Says:

    “Professional panhandlers” is offensive. It’s offensive to me and should be to every other person that is either employed or looking for employment. Political correctness wants to lump every single person on the street asking for money into the same category. It’s nonsense. This isn’t an exact science but you can look into someone’s eyes and you will see if they are really desperate or faking desperation. I have no problem giving a dollar to someone that has mental health issues. Hell a lot of times I have no problem giving a dollar to a drug addict. Drug addicts are the worlds greatest liars but they can also be very charming. They know they are full of it and I know they are full of it but sometimes you get to see the real human being that is still in there despite the ravages of everyday drug use. And if my interaction with them makes them feel “normal” for even a few minutes a day then I am all for it. What I am not for is these frauds that are popping up all over the place with cars and cell phones. Defending these people does a tremendous disservice to those that are truly desperate.

  9. joe from Lowell Says:

    I would let any random panhandler sit at my dining room table before I let Publius in the door.

    What a repellent human being.

  10. Tim Little Says:

    There’s so much to pick apart here, but one thing I MUST respond to is this comment by Publius: “One of the homeless speakers claimed he was disabled. He looked perfectly healthy to me.”

    This is a pet peeve of mine. Not all disabilities are as obvious as a wheelchair or a missing limb. Case in point: Someone may be disabled to to COPD or some other pulmonary disorder, yet appear perfectly healthy to an outside observer.

    This doesn’t even begin to take into account the gamut of mental health issues that could classify someone to be disabled — in fact, with the homeless population this is probably a more likely scenario than physical disability.

    Without getting into a full-fledged rant I will simply suggest that we be very careful when forming opinions about individuals based on how they do/do not fit our personal stereotypes.

  11. Taxpayer Says:

    There is no benefit to it all for the City. See ya move on!

  12. Joe Says:

    Without getting into a full-fledged rant I will simply suggest that we be very careful when forming opinions about individuals based on how they do/do not fit our personal stereotypes.

    I think this is a very fair statement. I know that I am guilty of it and I’m sure I’m not alone. In my defense I would just ask you to look at the situation. On the spot I am deciding whether or not to give a stranger money. Is it really that unfair to make a personal judgement about the stranger asking for money ? I do not have any statistics to prove this but I do have eyeballs. The number of panhandlers is on the rise. And the people I’m seeing do not look like the panhandlers that I have seen my entire life. We are trending in the wrong direction. “Mental health issues” covers so many different areas. Besides drug addiction it is the number one cause of homlesness. These are the people i am most sympathetic towards. But what about some of the less intense mental health issues? The issues that people deal with while working and raising a family. Should we lump them into the same category as those with severe mental health issues? We have to use common sense. Good people will begin to completely tune out panhandlers if this trend continues. And the people that will be most effected by it are those who need our help the most.

  13. Brian Says:

    I think what’s bothering people is being lied to. When people who don’t look homeless are making up stories to scam you into giving them money for drugs it just pisses people off. The city council is basically saying to these people “the party is over”.
    Could this lead to more theft and break-ins?
    Hopefully they get help or leave Lowell.

  14. Taxpayer Says:

    Everyone is looking way into this and if you want to baby panhandling simply give me you address and I will come by; ring your doorbell and ask for money everyday if you think its fine!

  15. Magnolia Says:

    All this back and forth is making me dizzy. This whole thing started with aggressive behavior on the part of some of the panhandlers. No one wants to go downtown and be approached by pushy people demanding money. They get right in your face and no sooner do you get past that one than another one comes along. This is a deterrent to anyone wanting to go to eat or shop. After you are annoyed so many times, you take your business elsewhere. That hurts the shops we are striving to keep. The Council did the right thing.

  16. Joe Says:


    The old saying is try walking a mile in their shoes. Your natural response will be that you have no sympathy for drug addicts. So lets forget about them. Just focus on the panhandlers with legit mental illness. What do you think a day is like for them? These are real life human beings lost in our world. They have nowhere to go and have nothing to do. Imagine living like that every single day of your life? You’ve got to be above being insulted by these people. Just imagine walking that mile

  17. Publius Says:

    Joe from Lowell,

    Regarding your comment #9, no reason to worry. I wouldn’t be caught dead at your dinner table.

  18. Lynne Says:

    The thing is, you can go after harassment without going after everyone. How many people on this thread have gone downtown and been aggressively panhandled? I go downtown. I’ve never even been approached.

    JfL, Publius, both of you, knock it off.

  19. Taxpayer Says:

    First of Joe, you don’t know their mental status, your making an assumption. Secondly yes I do know some that pan handle that have mental illness that have also committed violent crimes. Third with the budget decreases to mental health its fitting to me that if someone with a mental illness commits a crime he or she would be better evaluated in a jail setting as they have psych wards Doctors treatment programs etc. The point is these people receive entitlements spend it and thus need to beg for money for their alcohol cigarettes and drugs. Its not for food! The same ones who pan handle go to the Elliott center, shelter, living waters, pathfinders everyday to eat!

  20. Renee Says:

    Lynne, I never got panhandled either, because we must look poor ourselves.

  21. Joe Says:


    I agree with just about everything you just said. I also support the new ban on panhandling. I just think we can do it with some compassion. I also get annoyed by the lumping in of all people into the same category. There is a huge difference to me. The real experts on this issue are the police officers walking the streets everyday. They also understand that this is not a black and white issue. The cops can tell the difference between those who need and those who want. I wil end my part of the debate this way. I like the law but I also like that the officers will use compassionate discretion.

  22. Taxpayer Says:

    The reality is that not one person will be fined just like the civil marijuana bill!

  23. Shawn Says:

    You’re right, maybe we should be helping the panhandlers instead of punishing them.

    Give them a calendar that shows when and where the open studios are being held, or when the Democrat convention will be at the arena, or when and where the GLAD meetings are being held.

    Obviously, those are the locations that would be best for the pickins..

  24. Joe Says:

    Give them a calendar that shows when and where the open studios are being held, or when the Democrat convention will be at the arena, or when and where the GLAD meetings are being held.

    I honestly feel bad for jack, Lynne and all the other moderators here that have to deal with this nonsense. People like Shawn are just gross. The fact that you added GLAD to your list just tells the world what you really are…….a dummy.

  25. Lynne Says:

    Joe - last warning. I like you, but the personal attacks are not acceptable. Find another way to disagree. Next comment which includes a personal attack will be deleted.

  26. Jade Says:

    Why punish even more the most unfortunate among us? Enforcing laws against panhandling plays a relatively small role in controlling the problem. Providing adequate access and availability of social services, especially treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, are far more effective tactics to a complete and comprehensive community response to panhandling.

    We all know panhandling is unpleasant. What we need to do is to stop the scammers and help those that are really in need. To some, panhandling is a business. The city should require these panhandlers to go through the same process every other business in the city goes through and obtain a valid permit, and it doesn’t violate in any way free speech rights. It’s simple regulation that any other honest business owner has to go through.

    Some cities have created visible sticker permits for panhandling businesses. The sticker would be placed on the sign panhandlers hold. The panhandler applying for the sticker would be informed that the sticker must be visible or they are in violation of the law. Then, when a police officer is called, they would question the panhandler and find out if they need help.
    If the officer has never seen them before and they say they need help, the officer would then direct them to a facility to get help. If they refuse help, he then informs them that since they have been offered the help they are soliciting, they must stop all public solicitations or apply for a Panhandling License. If the officer has a record of the person being offered help in the past and they are still soliciting help without a visible license, the officer would then remove the individual from the area and enforce whatever penalties the city determined to be proper for the infraction.

    The key to this plan working are the visible permit stickers and people knowing what it means. The goal would be that any person driving down the street would see the permit and know that this person has been informed of where they can go to receive food, shelter, counseling, medical help, help finding a job etc. and has rejected them.

    The objective is to help the homeless and stop providing the dishonest with cash. Hopefully this will help educate the destitute on where they can obtain help, and require those who are just looking to make money to have a business license. Anyone who is truly homeless and is looking for help won’t need a license because they will be taken care of by our existing programs. The only people who will be licensed are those who have rejected help and simply want to be in the business of panhandling.

    The act of panhandling is more than just free speech, it’s a business. You can’t stop panhandling, that would be unconstitutional. However, you can legally regulate it because it is a form of business. The moment one accepts financial transactions they are by legal definition conducting business. Is it fair that every other business has to be licensed and pay taxes, while panhandlers have no regulations? Both are businesses, and both need to be regulated.

  27. Magnolia Says:

    Since I don’t go downtown - never panhandled. My elderly ( older than me) neighbor got hit up 4 times between the Market Street garage and St-Anne’s in August. She has not been downtown since.

  28. joe from Lowell Says:

    “Everyone is looking way into this and if you want to baby panhandling simply give me you address and I will come by; ring your doorbell and ask for money everyday if you think its fine!”

    &$%^ing public property; how does it work?

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