I have been homeless. I have been a panhandler. I am in recovery.
I absolutely agree with everything that was said in the open letter from business owners. I agree that being compassionate does not need to include giving money directly to panhandlers. I agree that the aggressive nature and sheer number of the panhandlers in this small town leads to less foot traffic by community members and tourists.
I know this because I talk to other members of the community, and they tell me they avoid certain areas or feel intimidated if they do go downtown.
I am not a shrinking violet by any means and I have felt intimidated by people (often more than one in the area) standing next to the parking lot machines, watching me put my money in, giving me unsolicited “advice,” and expecting money in return. I warn visitors about the parking lots and the parking garage. These areas are not safe or welcoming to others.