Why do “good Samaritans” donate to our “Card-carrying panhandlers” on street corners- which apparently has become such a lucrative job- that there are now “organized panhandling gangs” working the streets (if you believe some comments). They do it- because they think, by the grace of god, that could be me.
The economy is tough. People are homeless at the highest rates ever. Unemployment is at an all-time high. Gas prices are high- and our government is running out of money and social services and safety nets are seeing funding cuts. Yep- it’s bad.
But, the Dayton City Commission thinks the answer is to create laws that will try to collect fines from the panhandlers. Only fools would think this makes sense. Besides the fact that this makes work for our police, who are already short staffed. Believe it or not- cops aren’t social workers- and jails aren’t homeless shelters. The money it would cost to rid our streets of these evil panhandlers through their solution will cost us much more than putting these people to work. That’s not including the costs of defending the sign law in the coming 1st amendment issue of free speech- which the city has a horrible track record of understanding.
Instead- we could try to do something more productive- put these people to work. Real work. Work we need to have done. In almost every place I see panhandlers- I can look at overgrown lots, trash and litter in the street, and graffiti that needs to be removed. If you ask me which is worse- I suggest the relatively clean panhandler bothers me less than the aforementioned urban dirt.
Yes, we’ll still have people standing on street corners- even with my solution- but, instead- lets make it part of a program that is organized and solving problems instead of making them.
We would start by creating a day labor pool depot. At the depot- anyone, from contractors, to landscapers to home owners, could pick up people for manual labor. The pay rate would be minimum wage- with no extra responsibility for SS, workers comp etc. A flat $7.85 an hour or whatever the rate is right now. Laborers would rate the employers- and employers would rate the laborers. For those who worry about this screwing with labor rates- those who try to use pool people for doing work that may be higher skill- on a regular basis- will be knocked out of the system quickly through the rating system. Laborers would be expected to do manual low skilled labor- from cutting grass with a push mower- to weeding, to scraping paint- or hauling off debris from a construction site.
Those who can’t do manual labor, would work at the depot answering phones, filling out paperwork, or handwork that can be dropped off- desk-bound project work like kitting packages.
The way you donate to the panhandlers would be to buy Alms Bucks- business cards printed on plastic cards- hard to duplicate- for $1 each. Each card would have directions to the depot- where the Alms bucks can be transformed into real dollars- after completing real work for at least 4 hours with a 100% rating.
Of course, some people who want to donate may not have alms bucks. In these cases, panhandlers could give the person a donation card- with info on how to get alms bucks. They would have their panhandling license number- and the donor would be sent to a web site to report their donation. Panhandlers would be checked on their integrity for reporting these donations- or have their license revoked.
Also – highest scoring workers, would be asked to don a vest- and actually officially vend Alms bucks on corners the first Friday of every month.
People buying alms bucks would be given credit for donations- for tax purposes- and to earn ratings. Church groups could raise money for the program, philanthropists could donate to the program, and individuals could donate to a program where they know that they are helping these people get back on their feet.
The program would be run by a non-profit, and the city would make a commitment to spend $100,000 hiring these people to pick up trash, cut empty lots, assist neighborhood projects- all to be invested only on a $1 for $1 match by donations. Every panhandler would have an online profile- with their first name, their verified story, and their work history and rating- so that people who want to donate- can verify that they are truly donating to people who have real needs- and are working their way to get off the dole.
No questions would be asked about legal immigration status in the day laborer pool. The reason for this is because if we continue to ignore or rule these people as ineligible to work- their only options will be criminal activity or panhandling. If you don’t like it- find a better solution.
I’m sure there are some issues to resolve in this proposal- but that’s what comments are for. Please share your suggestions- or challenge me to solve the problems that I may have overlooked.
Thank you to the Mayor’s wife, Deborah Cool-Lorens for challenging me for an alternative solution.