Don’t limit helping the homeless

An article in The Davis Enterprise on Tuesday, June 24, clearly served its purpose: to make the community aware that The Enterprise is in complete support of the new “stakeholders group” that hopes to make Davis less supportive of on-the-street panhandlers and other “homeless-looking” people on our city streets.

I am disappointed in the disingenuous tool to accomplish this aim: attempting to persuade compassionate Davisites they “could” ameliorate homelessness by giving to nonprofits and faith community efforts, instead.

People give to that particular person because they want to give to that particular person, as the compassion in the moment strikes.

There are times for each of the panhandling poor when social service is not what they need. It is a few cash dollars.

The “homeless look” is what the business element of these “stakeholders” wants to see gone. Discouraging compassion from local passersby is not the answer.

For my part in ameliorating this problem, nine years ago I envisioned three projects: One, a “Lockers for the Homeless” project; two, a faith-based “rotating” winter shelter system, you may know as The Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter (just completed its seventh successful season!); and three, a kind of Day Labor for panhandlers, a glorified street sheet (The Spare Changer) allowing erstwhile panhandlers to become advocates for social justice, all while giving back something to the community of people that gives them spare change.

Happily, the Davis community has embraced two of these concepts. I continue to advocate for the lockers project.

I do not see discouraging the community, as the article clearly attempts to do, from giving money to sign-flying homeless-looking panhandlers as doing anything more than promoting apathy towards these needy people.

Make no mistake: I support the discouragement of out-of-town panhandlers, but not at the expense of locals vested here, and not under the disingenuous guise of expecting that money to go to “agencies” where it “could” go to do more “good.”

Lawson H. Snipes Jr.

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