Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Panhandling Permit?

Posted on Craigslist the other day and mailed to various entities including the Lost Coast Outpost, was a proposal for the City of Eureka to require permits for panhandling. Over 300 comments on the LoCo on the proposal, so far.

My comment was along the line that panhandling is akin to asking for help and asking for help is a human right. It's also your human right to refuse the person that help should you so choose. Someone replied that requiring a permit still allows them to panhandle so it doesn't violate their rights. 

If that's the case then what's the point? The person proposing this wrote panhandling is a threat to the security of people and businesses in Eureka. I disagree. It's annoying for those of us subject to it, but not a threat to our security. Aside from that, even with a permit they'd still be panhandling, thus still a "threat" to us. Doesn't even accomplish the writer's purpose.

The permit would be subject to revocation should the permit holder be found being "aggressive" or fraudulent in their panhandling. Assuming Eureka Police have the time and resources to enforce it, what are they going to do if the permit is revoked and the person still panhandles? That's very much a possibility since that person might not have any other choice but to panhandle.  I guess we throw the person in jail for basically asking for help?

The bottom line is it's not enforceable and seems simply intended as harassment. I don't know what the answer to the homeless situation is. Harassing them isn't the answer and shouldn't be an option.

I wonder if I get hit on by panhandlers more than most? I recall the one guy at the Shell station at 4th and M in Eureka years ago. He's standing up by the mini- mart watching people getting gas.  I drive up, get out of my truck and he immediately focuses on me. 

He comes over and hits me up for spare change. Why me? He's got an empty plastic bottle and says he ran out of gas and wants spare change to get going again. Ahhh...the old out of gas routine. I actually gave him the 50 cents or more in change I had in my pocket that time.

I experienced a couple modifications of that technique just recently- within the last two weeks, actually.

Was getting some gas down at the Renner cardlock on West Del Norte a few days ago. As I was getting ready to leave one of the bums living by the bay comes walking up. I knew he was up to something before he even got close. 

He had an aerosol can of some kind in his hand. He told me he and his girlfriend are living in a tent nearby and he was washing car windows to make a little money. Not sure what he was going to use to wash the windows. Perhaps the stuff the fueling station provides?

I told him I wasn't interested and began to drive off. He hit up the county truck fueling beside me next. I could hear the guy tell him it was a county vehicle so he couldn't pay him to wash the windows. The bum was pretty cool about it, said ok and walked off.

A few days before that I was finishing up working on a place a couple blocks from my house. I grabbed the leaf blower out of my truck and noticed a guy pushing a shopping cart with a bunch of junk in it. Probably his lifes' belongings. I saw him look over at me and knew not to look back because they use eye contact as a gauge as to whether you're approachable.

It didn't work that time. He walked up and tells me he's on his way to a job interview in Arcata. He needs $2.20, or something along that line to catch the bus. Nice touch, but not very believable. He says he's got $1.70 and only needs 50 cents more. 

I have my blower going by that time and point towards downtown saying "You need to go down there". He nods as if he understands and I figure I got him to move on. I go to the back yard to finish my work.

When I come back out to the front of the house the guy is sweeping the sidewalk along D street. I guess it's the old he'll pay me when he sees I'm willing to work routine. I don't even bother going to that part of the sidewalk to blow it off. I put my blower in the truck and hop inside hoping to race off. 

He quickly comes over to the driver's side and tells me again that he's got $1.70 and just needs 50 more cents. I just tell him I have to go but good luck. I drive off. 

I actually feel a little guilty refusing a guy who says he's willing to work for whatever you'll give them, but I know that's just part of the act most of the time. Even if they are willing to work, I don't want them targeting me every time they see me around town. Sorry to say, but it's probably best to just avoid them and get them to move on.


At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Requiring a business license for panhandling is legal in many states. I don't know about California, but it's withstood legal challenges elsewhere.

When you talk about panhandling, you're probably thinking of destitute people who no other option to get by. There are also people for whom panhandling is a profitable profession, living a comfortable, homed life.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger MOLA:42 said...


A well reasoned observation... prepare to be accused of being an enemy of the people.

I have the same problem dealing with panhandlers. On one hand I grew up with the ethos we must help others who need the help.

On the other I also know sometimes it does more harm than good (50 cents for a bus ride... a meal... or the next "hit").

I honestly don't know the answer to the homeless and panhandling problems of Eureka (or everywhere else). I just know the "anonymous" email referenced certainly is NOT the solution.

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MOLA, should a panhandler making 30 to 60K a year be regulated in any fashion? Business license? Pay income taxes? Look into the situation before dismissing inconvenient facts out-of-hand.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

The fact is, the people this proposal is targeting don't make anywhere near that much. Your 30 to 60k earners are far and few between.

And for that matter, I don't care if someone makes 30 or 60k a year panhandling. They shouldn't need a permit to make a living.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger MOLA:42 said...


You Aced it again.

I know this is only a brief and shining moment but it's good to be on the same side for once.

At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred, the truth is you don't know who is panhandling for help and who is panhandling as a career.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

" don't know who is panhandling for help and who is panhandling as a career."

I'll be the first to admit that I don't, but neither do you.

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I normally seriously disagree with what you write, but today we are on the same page. This idea is unenforceable.

Others have mentioned should panhandlers be making 30 or 60k a year. I am willing to guess if they are not paying their taxes on that income they are already breaking the law by not self-reporting. I don't know that adding another law on top of that is going to change anything.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

And if there are panhandlers making that much money, how could you tell? They deal in cash, so even if the IRS was checking on them it would be near impossible to tell.


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