UPDATE (10:55 p.m.): After a marathon council session, the ordinance passes.
Tomorrow, the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to ban all street solicitations from city roads, including panhandlers, newspaper hawkers and charity volunteers carrying boots.
Frankly, I’m upset. Mostly because I had a really cool blog video I was going to do focusing on panhandlers and their really uninspired signs.
If you’re planning on going to the meeting at 6 p.m. and speaking, I’d suggest you read two things:
The first is an article I wrote about panhandling back in 2008 called “When Panhandler’s Attack.” Hopefully, you get my sarcasm.
The second is an e-mail I received from a friend, G.W. Rolle. He is formerly homeless and has an interesting perspective. He doesn’t like panhandling either, but instead of a simplistic solution, he decided to start a street newspaper. Like other street newspapers across North America, he wanted to convince the panhandling homeless to sell these papers instead of begging. This new ordinance could kill those plans.
Read his thoughts after the jump.
The criminalization of Homelessness has many effects which are far reaching. One of those effects is that it directly influences the income and the sustainability of homeless individuals. Forty one percent of homeless people have jobs. These jobs however do not supply enough income to carry one to a secure living situation. That income is further jeopardized by the threat of constant arrest, and by moving under threat from one location to another. When I was homeless,in St Petersburg, I sold the St Petersburg Times every Sunday, for almost as long as I was homeless. I made between 75 and one hundred dollars a week. While my income was not a vehicle to obtaining waterfront property, it did feed me, buy me sundry items and more importantly kept me from panhandling, or stealing.I was able to do my laundry and have a drink or eat out when I wished to. Many people see the Sunday sale of the St Petersburg Times as a way to weather a bad situation.I wouldn't say that the selling of the St Petersburg Times was solely my savior. I would say that the film Easy Street and my ability to speak publicly lifted me out of homelessness.I will say however that the selling of the St Petersburg Times,kept me out of homelessness and that I was able to pay a weekly rent due to my selling of it.Had I not had the St Pete Times on those Sundays, it is easy to see myself slipping back into homelessness. Since I was lifted out of homelessness at the end 2007, I have accomplished a few things. I was ordain as a minister in 2008, I had a program, Living Water that housed forty homeless people in a transitional setting until it was closed due to lack of support.I have made my views on homelessness, and that housing is a basic human right known nationally and internationally. I am the executive director of a non profit organization.I received a national award for personal achievement from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and am currently a member of that organization's board of directors. Locally, I am the coordinator of the Pinellas County coalition for the Homeless' Faces Of Homelessness Speaker's Bureau, which, as it's name suggests attempts to put a face on homelessness. Most importantly, I am the publisher of The Homeless Image which as it's slogan suggests attempts to give a voice to the voiceless. The suggested retail price of this paper is one dollar. So far homeless people can sell this paper and keep all of the proceeds.The motivation behind this is that I want people to have the same opportunity that the Times afforded me, only more of it. This proposed ordinance on a ban on all street solicitation would not only devastate homeless incomes from sells of The St Pete Times and papers such as mine, but it would further put on hold true solutions to homelessness and would have the effect of perpetuating homelessness in this area for many years to come. The pattern seems to consist of the following: A complaint is made about the homeless by folks deemed worthy of listening to, and before you know it, a law is being crafted to further legislate against the people who can afford it least.The same as Baywalk. The same as the property ordinances. The same repressive tactics.Harmony is not sought. Creative solutions? Constructive engagement? Forget about it. My newspaper offers hope, constructive action, and income from fair exchange as opposed begging. That's what it's all about. Give beggars a product they can sell. I guess by blaming homeless people, the City Council thinks that they legislate themselves out of their homeless problem. I urge all of you to vote against this short sighted, mean spirited tactic. Please email the St Petersburg City Council and ask them to entertain constructive engagement as opposed to these current repressive measures.Thank you for your time