On Saturday I was driving towards Brown Square (that is, I was coming up Plantation Street from Belmont) when a posse of kids in baseball uniforms approached my car.
Or, rather, they ran into the road in such a way that it seemed as if they were trying to achieve Death by Altima rather than ask me for some change from my wallet.
I looked around to see if there was an adult supervising — because, you know, there’s supposed to be an adult when there are kids begging for money in the street. (At this point, I was a couple of doors away from Maria’s Fine Jewelry.)
I didn’t see an adult until I was right at the intersection with Franklin Street; he was diagonally across the street from most of the kids (and not right at the intersection), and he was sitting in a lawn chair.
When I got home, I related this story to my husband, who said that he had had a similarly unsupervised experience. He was at the intersection of Heard and Stafford Streets, and traffic was backed up.
The reason? A panhandling kid kept hitting the Walk button so that she and her compatriots could use the 20 second delay to pony up more cash.
Again, the adult who was supposed to be supervising was sitting at a bit of a remove on a lawn chair.
I know it’s going to make me sound like an awful curmudgeon, but I really hate the municipal rite of Spring that requires every youth sport team to go to busy intersections to beg in the street.
I think panhandling is an activity that is protected by our freedoms of speech and association. I don’t have a problem with homeless (or otherwise monetarily challenged) folks who are out there asking for money. I have never witnessed any adult panhandler who has tied up traffic or who is anything less than courteous.
The City of Worcester previously waged a campaign against panhandlers, and the city requires that these kinds of activities require a permit.
And the reason is so that we don’t have a bunch of twelve-year-olds running in front of my car willy-nilly.
My largest problem with the city’s minor war on poverty was that the adult panhandlers were not causing an issue to motorists and were not a danger to themselves. The child panhandlers are more often than not both, and the adults that should be supervising them are often not doing their job.
During Girl Scout cookie season, I often see girls and their mothers outside the Millbury Credit Union branch in Webster Square. They are selling their goods, not harassing passersby, and seem to do a pretty decent business.
I’m not sure if a similar solution could work for the numerous sports teams that are on the streetcorners, but I am really not looking forward to my next Saturday’s drive.