Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Hey brother, can you spare a dime?": San Francisco's Attempt To End Panhandling as a Form of Direct Philanthropy

The May 13, 2008, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle has an article about San Francisco's innovative new way to deal with what it calls the problems of homelessness - set up 10 meters around the city that accept change from the public that is given directly to charities that help the homeless.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

Money deposited in the meters would go directly to charities that help the homeless. The goal, officials say, is to reduce panhandling and to educate tourists and residents about the problem of giving money directly to people on the streets.

"The reason people are panhandling is because there's a market for panhandling," Mayor Gavin Newsom said Monday. "We're not helping these individuals by handing out cash. If there was strong evidence to suggest this helped people turn their lives around, we would not be using this approach."

* * *

Local advocates for the homeless, however, laughed - and gasped - when told about the idea Monday.

Sister Bernie Galvin, executive director of Religious Witness with Homeless People, called the meter idea "utterly ridiculous." She said it was based on a stereotype that all panhandlers use every nickel and dime to buy drugs and alcohol.

"Forget the children, forget the mothers who are struggling to raise their family homeless or in inadequate housing," she said. "Will the city never give up on trying to find ways to make the lives of homeless people harder?"

For the entire article, see "S.F. parking meters retooled to aid homeless," in the May 13, 2008, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle.

I don't usually comment on my posts to this blog, but this idea is nuts!  Sister Galvin is absolutely correct in stating that this idea is based on, and will likely promote, a stereotype about panhandlers using donated money exclusively for drugs and alcohol.  Each of us should give money to panhandlers if we choose to do so.  If panhandlers are breaking laws concerning when and where to panhandle, the public officials should enforce those laws.  If panhandlers are breaking other laws concerning illegal drug use, then public officials should enforce those laws.  But giving money to a 501(c)(3) charity as a substitute for direct giving to someone in need is just ludicrous.

DAB

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