Should panhandling be criminalized in Ventura?

August 20, 2009

panhandling_head

Take a walk down Main Street in Ventura and you’ll see signs like these pasted in window fronts, discouraging people from giving handouts to homeless people, and to panhandlers who congregate downtown.

The signs are encouraging, as well, because it sends a message to the homeless that real help doesn’t come from earning spare change, rather seeking it in social service programs, rehab centers and seasonal shelters.

Panhandling, according to experts in our city social services department, is just another way to get homeless people to stall and delay getting permanent help. More than likely, the few extra bucks many earn from panhandling go to feed drug and alcohol addictions. When the money runs out, the begging resumes, and the cycle never ends.

It’s all a matter of choice for us, though; window signs or no window signs, we can still choose to give handouts to the homeless if we wish. There’s something selfless to be said about the person who gives a quarter or two to a sidewalk beggar when that money could have gone to paying for (overpriced) parking meters.

But what if panhandling was a criminal offense?

The city council in Santa Barbara, a half hour north of here, supported a majority vote this week to further criminalize panhandling on their streets, where busking and begging are predominant.

The new ordinance makes panhandling at bus stops and near vehicles on public streets, a misdemeanor. A previous law on the books in Santa Barbara prohibited aggressive panhandling.

Should a similar law be in order for the City of Ventura? Would it prompt the homeless to get the help they need? How would they pay the fine? (In Santa Barbara, they charge $1,000. No homeless person can afford that price through panhandling alone.)

The city is already caught between a rock and a hard place on this one. Ventura is viewed by many as one of the only coastal towns truly sympathetic to the growing homeless problem; yet, it’s also criticized for taking too long to do anything about it. A law barring handouts could be the push the city needs to rid its streets of the problem. Or, it could only complicate things.

It’s both sides of the same coin, really.

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5 Responses to “Should panhandling be criminalized in Ventura?”

  1. pdxurbanoutdoorsman Says:

    Instead of creating yet more laws the public at large needs to be educated about where that money will go in most cases. While I am living in Portland OR the issue seems to be universal. Check out this web page regarding what could be considered Dangerous Compassion.

    http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/49705012.html

  2. alchemicalmedia Says:

    Panhandling is a job. It takes a long time to make a small amount of money. An alternate form of employment could be mugging. I think I would much rather be asked for change than have someone demand it under a threat.

    see my double your money performance documentation for an experimental commentary on the topic.

  3. mister king Says:

    I think Panhandeling is only bad when it becomes verbally threatening like if a person calls you a bad name or bad word or says they’ll hurt you. As a fomer resident of the ventura county rescue mission i can tell you that the ventura county rescue mission had Rats. And the food was not as good as mcdonalds (my opinion)It seems to me like the people who want to charge homeless fines and jailtime for panhandeling are people who have never been homeless and poor. I think homeless people deserve every right to pandhandle. Some of these homeless people have fought wars for america, share what little they have amoungst their friends, and some are the coolest people i’ve ever met.

  4. pdxurbanoutdoorsman Says:

    So this leaves me with one question for alchemicalmedia and mister king.

    Do you mind that your money is being funnelled into the local drug trade where you live?

    • alchemicalmedia Says:

      pdxurbanoutdoorsman

      Your question is strange. Do you mind that money is being funneled into the local drug trade where you live?
      If you are maybe you should work on closing down bars and liquor stores, or how about your local hardware stores where people buy solvents to get high… what about your local convience store that sells tobacco products?

      What does that have to do with panhandling exactly? I guess you are implying that panhandlers use their money to buy drugs?

      Maybe panhandlers do buy drugs maybe some do not…. not the point. The largest consumers of drugs are people with money. so it would seem that if you were concerned about money going to a local drug trade you might start with those that have more purchasing power than panhandlers… I’m pretty sure that a doctor lawyer teacher police officer etc with a drug habit is probably funneling a lot more money into the drug trade than a guy with cup on the corner making 20 bucks a day.

      yeah im concerned about this but criminalizing panhandling isn’t going to stop money from going into the drug trade. drug prevention and addiction counseling is a good way to deal with that… so maybe provide free addiction intervention services for panhandlers if your concerned about them spending money on drugs… I’m guessing though thats only going to be a miniscule portion of the drug trades profits friend. Maybe you should find out a way to stop CEOs from buying cocaine for their private parties if your really concerned.

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