Pubdate: Sun, 29 Apr 2007
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Estelle Heron


Re: Aiding addicts, April 23.

The compassionate editorial recognizes the humanity of our 
panhandlers rather than treating them like a species apart. Thank you 
for that and for suggesting that we tackle the problem of addiction 
rather than targeting the already marginalized.

It seems obvious that none would choose to be an addict or mentally 
ill, or under-educated or in whatever condition that results in 
someone taking up panhanding. These people are parents, siblings and 
children, likely estranged from their families, doing something that 
they are aware is desperate and undignified.

They do it covertly, not just to escape the eyes of the law but, to 
all appearances, because they are ashamed.

Lest I sound like a softheaded Pollyanna, I do think the money too 
often does go directly to the LCBO or to drug dealers; I long ago 
stopped doling out cash. However, establishing bylaws or other 
practices with the object of getting the panhandlers off the streets 
could marginalize them further, even pushing them toward petty crime 
and away from downtown where the services they need are located. No 
one will benefit.

I live downtown and walk a good deal and have been approached often 
by panhandlers, but have not been treated with rudeness even though I 
don't give them money. On hot days in the summer, I do give bottled 
water if I see someone looking overheated or dehydrated; that 
certainly appears to be appreciated.

We should support social services and shelters, as the editorial 
suggests, and be thankful that we don't have to avail ourselves of 
those services. But if someone wants to hand over change, that's a 
personal choice.

Estelle Heron,

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