Tired of panhandlers, not only downtown, but at stop lights? Check out this great column by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz (been a fan of his since his days on 1430 am when it was news radio), he always has a great take on Living in Indy…
Panhandlers in Downtown Indianapolis are some of the most stingy people I have ever met.
I’ll give you a second to catch your breath.
Yes, I accused Downtown panhandlers of being stingy. Allow me to explain.
As someone who works and frequently plays in the Mile Square, I come across panhandlers every day. They include the “physically disabled” woman outside of Starbucks on Monument Circle who manages to haul around a shopping cart full of her stuff, the guy who has been trying to get enough money for gas so he can get his family stuck on the Eastside to Memphis, and the two guys who are “broke and homeless” but talked about their cellphone plans when they didn’t think anyone was listening.
There is nothing more annoying than trying to enjoy a meal, cigar or just some quiet time and have people come up to ask for money. And since the City-County Council Democrats continue to block any meaningful proposal to get these guys off the streets, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I decided to turn the tables on the panhandlers and start asking them for money.
Now I had a couple of ground rules. I would not approach anyone who was just holding a sign. Instead, I decided to approach only those panhandlers who either walked up to me and asked for money or solicited cash when I walked by them. And I would ask for money only once it was clear that’s what they wanted.
It was a fantastic experiment.
On the first day, as I sat on the veranda at Nicky Blaine’s on the Circle having a cigar and cocktail, the first panhandler approached me. He went through the usual spiel and right before he asked for money, I interrupted and asked him for a dollar. His jaw dropped; so I asked again. He told me he didn’t have any money to give, and I told him that makes two of us. He walked away bewildered.
On the second day, I was approached by a young guy who is always on the Circle selling candy. Every day it’s a new organization that he’s selling candy for; unless the line he’s using that day is that he’s selling the candy to pay for summer classes at college.
As I walked by, he asked if I had money to buy candy. I told him I didn’t, but could he float me a couple of bucks so I could get lunch? He told me he didn’t have any money. I told him that he must be a horrible salesman to have been out on the Circle all day selling candy and not have any money.
That story repeated itself, no matter how many times I asked panhandlers for money. The answer was always no. One even went so far as to curse me out. He sounded like something out of an old Redd Foxx comedy bit.
What fascinated me the most was the fact that people who spend all day begging others for money had the nerve to get mad when someone did it to them. So maybe that’s the way we should deal with Indy’s panhandling problem: simply ask them for money.
Maybe they’ll get tired of us panhandling and then they will avoid Downtown so the rest of us can enjoy it. Just a thought. By the way, you got a dollar you can spare?
Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.org. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.