A Chapel Hill business owner got so frustrated with the panhandling problem in front of his restaurant that he sawed off the public bench located in front of his door. He’ll face a judge later this month. What’s fascinating is this detail from the Daily Tar Heel story, which references Sgt. Allison Finch of the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Finch said she suspects Chapel Hill has a steady group of panhandlers and homeless people because it offers services and students give panhandlers money.
In a 2008 report to the Chapel Hill Town Council, a task force estimated that panhandlers collect up to $100 a day.
Jamie Rohe, program coordinator for the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, said homeless people do move to places with an infrastructure to help them — but she emphasized that panhandlers aren’t necessarily homeless.
First, it’s right to distinguish between the homeless and panhandlers. Many homeless people have addictions or mental issues for which they legitimately need help. The issue is connecting them to that help and making it stick. When it comes to panhandlers — folks I define as those who ask for cash simply because it’s an easy gig — let’s do the math. In Chapel Hill, a hard-charging panhandler can make $500 per week tax free, with two days off to rest. That’s $25,000 per year tax free, with two weeks off for vacation. Not a bad gig for someone who doesn’t want to work. My question is this: how do they live with themselves?