Here we go again, CBT is breaking his own mantra and going to throw his hat into a debate that is going on right now in Downtown Memphis. No it isn’t skillet that adopted the Russian baby and then tried to Wal mart return the little kid by buying him a one way ticket home but the downtown panhandling problem. Being that I have been a downtowner since 92 I have had a unique outlook on the panhandling problem here in Memphis. When I moved into 38103 back in the early 90’s there were few panhandlers and for the most part they were friendly, they knew that I didn’t smoke and wasn’t going to give them money even if all they needed was a quart of oil to get to St. Louis.
Then the Atlanta Olympics happened in 96 and thanks to a quick “what are we going to do with our homeless problem”they rounded up all the homeless and shipped them to Memphis which created some more ‘aggressive’ panhandling. Add to that Katrina and other problems and guess what, we have some panhandlers who are scaring the shit out of tourists and females. I know that I have friends who have businesses downtown and it is affecting their bottom line as people have a conception that downtown is full of bums and is dangerous when really it isn’t. I don’t know if the answer is ‘banning single beer sales’ or ‘panhandling zones’ but whatever is decided I say we need to follow it through.
Here is what I mean…If I were to go duck hunting would I have better luck at finding ducks in a field on President’s island or at the Peabody hotel which has ducks swim in it’s fountain from 11-5 daily? I have been spending some time down in our Entertainment district lately and you can recognize the tourists like they were wearing a big ole sign that says “Come heckle me” and here is where we need to watch over these people because they are the easy targets. Who do you think that the panhandler is going to try to hit up – 1. a tourist from Tacoma Washington or 2. a short fat blond haired fellow that they have seen many times downtown and will not allow them to get into his personal space? Yep poor Tom Tacoma is going to get heckled and if the panhandler is ‘off his meds’ will probably scare the shit out of them and guess who loses….We all do. If there is to be a No Panhandling zone then it needs to be enforced – Period! Single Beer sales – If they can’t get a quart of beer then the bums may be working harder to get more money to buy a ‘Big Ass Beer’ that is sold up and down the street. Bottom line is this isn’t a quick fix and we may need to find out how some other cities are handling this problem.
In our travels abroad we run into panhandling as well and traditionally in the Latin America countries it is kids selling bracelets or Chiclets which in my opinion is at least fair trade. Sure I have a desk drawer full of crappy beaded necklaces but at least I feel better knowing that my 10BZE was in trade for a shark necklace that I will never wear again. Again the same businesses who hate these kids have the same rules but the un-written rule is “you don’t pester the tourist, then you can stay”. Hell I know of a kid that lives on the island of San Pedro who has a CBT radar because the moment I walk off the plane (with the band playing I might add) there is Alex! That kid is going to be mayor of San Pedro when he grows up, I promise you! Yep we have run into a couple of more aggressive panhandlers but when you offer to buy them a burger or go pay their light bill, they fold so shame on you!
Anyway back to topic – I will support whatever is decided on addressing the aggressive panhandling, I just hope that we follow through with it. Kind of like that dumbarse Panhandler permit that was passed a couple years ago, we need some teeth to make this work because something needs to happen.