The truth behind panhandling
Petula Dvorak's Nov. 30 Metro column, "Panhandling: the uncomfortable truth and lies," shined a light on an important issue. But it also perpetuated unfortunate myths.
Each individual begging for change has his or her own story. Not all are virtuous, not all are truthful. Neither are many people. But what is different is that unlike most of "us," beggars have very few options or resources.
What is left of safety net programs - whether shelter, drug treatment or health care - is in extremely short supply. Also scarce are affordable housing and living-wage jobs.
Food is on that list, too. Yes, there are food programs, but getting to them at the designated service times can be impossible without access to transportation or a place to store belongings, especially for people with disabilities. Hunger is a daily experience for many homeless people: In a national survey, 40 percent reported that they'd gone a day without food in the previous 30 days.
Acknowledging people's humanity is critical, and spare change can make a difference. But the most important thing we can do is to urge our elected representatives to make ending hunger, homelessness and poverty the priority it should be.
The writer is executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
Maria Foscarinis, Washington
| December 2, 2010; 7:08 PM ET
Categories: D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, Local blog network, economy, housing, public health
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