One of the problems with panhandlers is that vast majority of them do not need financial help. Another problem is that they lead us to become cynical. People who truly need help have a harder time getting it. We don't know if they are honest, or if they are just trying to con us for drug money.
Believe it or not, there are actually schools where people learn how to panhandle -- and the good ones can make more money panhandling than actually working at something productive. Such activity should be discouraged. Everyone should contribute what they can. I also think that Social Security disability should be changed to provide for temporary and partial disability claims. The current system is based on an all-or-nothing basis. It is both overinclusive and underinclusive in its scope. But that's a story for some future blog.
Panhandlers also make patrons of businesses avoid the area, which lead to less money available. The National Coalition for the Homeless doesn't like anti-panhandling ordinances, but I for one don't like having to deal with agressive panhandlers. Many of them have drug or alcohol problems and they sometimes will act unpredictably. I have no problem supporting tax dollars to be used to treat their illnesses, to provide them with a place to sleep or any other temporary assistance to help them get on their feet, but I don't want them in my face making me feel unsafe on the street.
One of the downsides to the revitalization of Bricktown in downtown Oklahoma City has been the appearance of panhandlers in the parking lots and along the canal. Sometimes they will try to pose as parking attendants and collect parking fees after the parking lots have closed.
There has to be some way to deal with such a problem while still helping the truly needy.