Please Help, Don’t Shop

It’s Irony Tuesday again!

Just a few short blocks from the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention a new campaign is underway spearheaded by downtown business owners. It’s called “Please Help Don’t Give,” and it’s targeting panhandlers.

Businesses plan to post “Please Help, Don’t Give” signs as part of a public education campaign designed to get visitors to not give panhandlers any money. (I’m trying to decide who this helps. Any ideas?)

The plan is the brainchild of Tom Turner and the Downtown Partnership, an organization representing business interests. It’s modeled after one in Denver, where they tell people in lieu of giving money to street people, they should instead give to agencies that serve the homeless.

The Downtown Partnership’s plan seems to be a little different. They will start telling Nashville’s tourists “Don’t Give” in 30 days. The rest of it — the funds supporting local social service agencies, etc. — well, they haven’t worked that part out yet. They’ll get to it, I’m sure.

Personally, I have a moral problem with a campaign called “Don’t Give.” Those are terrible words to put together and blast around the city. And I don’t think it’s Tom Turner’s or anyone else’s business what I choose to do with my money. I certainly don’t need a bunch of business people serving as my conscience.

I got a look at some minutes from the “Don’t Give” meeting. This struck me:

Turner said most people who give money to panhandlers are visitors, regional residents and hotel guests. Part of the initiative is to let them know that services are available (example: over 60 places to get a free meal), that it is “okay” to say “no” to a panhandler, and to encourage giving to service agencies. Similar campaigns have been conducted in other cities, with some success. Printed materials (e.g., brochures, informational business cards for panhandlers and for downtown visitors, posters) will be distributed. 

There’s a lot wrong with this. For one thing, services are not available. The city has never adequately funded the social services agencies that deal with the homeless, such as housing, drug addiction, employment, etc. Money is nowhere near adequate to the task, and telling tourists otherwise is a flat-out lie.

Secondly, the problem is not that homeless people don’t know where the services are. As anyone who has worked with the homeless will tell you, word about a new service or agency spreads faster than the latest Lindsey Lohan gossip on the MSM. The problem is that when they get to that agency, one finds they are out of money for the month already. Many of these agencies depend on Federal funds and as we all know, the Feds have been focused on creating a homeless population in Iraq, not helping the one at home.

Finally, pushing the “it’s OK to say no” message is just flat out immoral. What Would Jesus Do? For real? I think that’s the problem with the city, this country, the entire world. Too many people saying “don’t give.”

I’ve got my own “don’t give” message. If I see one of those signs in a downtown store window, I won’t give that establishment my business.


Filed under Downtown Partnership, homeless, panhandlers

10 responses to “Please Help, Don’t Shop

  1. >There’s a hymn these people sing at photo opportunities: “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers”.There’s a great Bob Dylan song that marks Rod Stewart’s finest moment on Gasoline Alley. He was only a hobo but one more is gone.You can talk a pretty good Christian game, especially if you’re a politician. You need to walk the talk. You vote for the Democratisprty Homelessness and poverty seem to be Republican shibboerhs.Seems like’Keep them weak and on their knees’.

  2. >I think it’s a great idea. These aren’t homeless victims they’re talking about; they’re bums. I think Jesus would tell these guys that God helps those who help themselves. And enabling panhandlers to pursue their addictions by giving them money is as bad as giving them the booze or drugs oneself.

  3. >fnork probably does not realize that about 1/3 of those “bums” became addicted to alcohol and/or drugs doing service for the US Military. Maybe you could blow up someones 3 year old child and walk away~ha, ha, ha. Some have hearts and deal with the mental anguish the best they can do. Jesus said: Judge not lest ye be judged.

  4. >What’s the difference between a bum and anyone else? There but for the grace of God ….Anyway, Fnork misses the point completely. Whether you choose to give a homeless person a dollar or a ham sandwich is your business. It’s between you and your conscience and your God. Just as itis with me and everyone else. We don’t need a bunch of business people spreading lies and misinformation about the availability of city services to assuage their guilt about being such meanies. THAT is my point.If the Downtown Partnership spent as much time and energy and money on actually helping us make more social services available so these so-called “bums” don’t have to resort to panhandling, we’d be a lot closer to solving the problem and a lot more compassionate city.It’s easy to be mean. It’s hard to be nice. But nice always works better in the long run. SoBeale’s rules to live by #1.

  5. >I don’t even work downtown and the bums are all over. Today a cop stopped in the lane in front of me and made one using a bus bench pour out his liter of beer. A couple of weeks ago one came into our carport at the office in broad daylight and urinated. There were bushes ten feet away! They come on the property and spend the night, leaving a mess, including vomit and feces. It is disgusting. We need not promote this behavior by supporting them financially…I have spent many nights in homeless shelters with people who deserve our help. These bums who panhandle and desecrate, do not. Anything spent on them is just promoting misbehavior and taking away from those truly in need.

  6. >Anything spent on them is just promoting misbehavior and taking away from those truly in need.Man, them’s some harsh words. I pray you don’t end up like one of these people you call “bums,” my friend. Fate has a funny way of opening our eyes and our hearts, when we least expect it. I know you think people want to live this way, but have you also considered that if that’s true then there is someting wrong with people who make that choice? A mental illness, a substance abuse issue (usually both), and a whole lot of other baggage?

  7. >Then work to change the laws so these pathetic people can be institutionalized. I worked at a mental health center in the eighties and I saw first-hand that einstitutionalization was cruel and inhumane. It was a well-intentioned “progressive” approach that had the unintended consequence of creating this pathetic, destructive street society we’re talking about.By the way, to the earlier point that the military produced these people, that they are somehow reacting to the violence of being in the armed forces… The U.S. armed forces have engaged in no large scale carnage since Viet Nam, until Iraq, which is still miniscule in comparison. If these are Vietnam vets, they are all 55 or older. Not. These are simply lost, irresponsible people, no matter what their background or how they snapped. I’m all for helping them with food, job training, rehab if they will choose… whatever, but not with cash to buy more booze or drugs.

  8. >Actually, fnork, we had quite a few Iraq war veterans at our RITI shelter this year. It’s an increasing problem. And I agree with you that we need to change things … on a bigger scale. That’s my point; I know you’re allergic to all things government, but this is where the government needs to step in and provide an alternative. One person’s dollar to a panhandler helps no one, many peoples’ dollars, pooled together, can help a lot of people.