Begging

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.

14 thoughts on “Begging

  1. MattB5 says:

    I agree. At least with the Girl Scouts they are offering something of some value (albeit decreasing value as the boxes get smaller.) It’s a valuable life skill being taught. You are offering goods in return for cash. You buy the cookies and sell them for more. Profit. The American way.

    Couldn’t the sports teams at least run a car wash, have a bake sale, collect bottles and cans, do SOMETHING to EARN the money. This generation has a bad enough attitude about the world owing them everything. I don’t think it needs to be reinforced.

    • Nicole says:

      I’d love to hear from someone who’s had experience in either the side-of-the-road solicitations or doing activities like car washes.

      I have to imagine that the car washes would make at least as much money as the begging on the road. You’re going to hit up less people, but you’re also (1) getting $5 a pop, and (2) staying safely out of the road.

      I feel like I harp on this all the time, but it’s really an incredible shame that kids aren’t able to have paper routes. It was a great way to have some time for myself and make a bit of money (and have a touch of responsibility).

  2. cate says:

    I hate it too. And it’s not just the kids; the Fire Department was doing it the other day, that fundraiser where they ask you to put change in a boot.

  3. Joe says:

    I completely agree. I also agree that the issue is not just kids, and lack of supervision of kids. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt during one of these things. Police and Firefighters should know better than walking out into traffic.

    I resolutely refuse to give anything at one of these.
    You say a permit is required- who do they get it from? The WPD?

  4. Oskie says:

    Whenever I encounter one of these makeshift mobile tollbooths I swell with bitterness because, as a Girl Scout, I was expected to sell cookies. Though, yes, it was a great life lesson as selling cookies (door to door no less) taught me that I would always hate working in sales.

    I can only hope that these kids’ brief bouts with panhandling results in a similar disdain.

  5. Jim Gonyea says:

    Wal-mart, Shaw’s and CVS have traditionally allowed groups to solicit donations outside their businesses.

  6. Sprout says:

    I hate it. It’s dangerous and it’s teaching the concept that begging is easier than working, so why work?

    HATE it.

    There have to be better options.

  7. elmparkblogger says:

    Silly Nicole!

    Don’t you know that the City Council welcomes panhandling? The efforts by these young team members is to give them an early shot at a lifestyle that some members of the City Council actually encourage.

    With the multitude of sign holders on every street corners, these people–“beggars” is such a, well, vulgar term–are the new ambassadors for the America’s Most Cynical City.

    We have long forgotten how to keep and attract young people or how to retain all of the college graduates who live here. We would rather keep –and maintain–a healthy, citywide group streaming from the bowels of the the inner city to give EVERY newcomer to Worcester a chance to really see what true residents look like.

    Maintaining an active group like this emphasizes to state and federal elected officials that Worcester really needs more and more and more dollars for social programs. In fact, one might even think that we don’t even HAVE programs for homelessness! (even though the vast majority panhandlers DO have homes, etc.)

    No one–police officials, city council–wants to actually enforce any kind of panhandling rule. It would make us cold hearted. It would be like actually enforcing rules about dangerous dog registration, for instance.

    Let’s cheer for the efforts by our city leaders to encourage youthful panhandling. They may appear bright and bushy eyed today in their colorful uniforms, but in a few years–barring any traffic accidents along the way–they, too, can graduate to be the unshaved, unwashed ambassadors of tomorrow!

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks for reminding me why I so hated the anti-panhandling campaign: the City Council argued that seeing panhandlers gave the wrong impression about our city to visitors…but how exactly is seeing a group of kids with their hats out at every streetcorner giving visitors the right impression?

      Unless, of course…they were all dressed in Oliver Twist attire, and the supervising adult were Fagin!

      Children of Worcester, consider performance art! I’d totally give you money!

  8. Jeremy Johnson says:

    what’re they collecting the money For?

  9. jmstewart says:

    base-ball

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