I recently saw a homeless man who was holding up his ragged cardboard sign while standing at a busy midtown intersection. I walked up, handed him a dollar, and chatted for a bit. He wasn’t drunk, disorderly, or aggressive — just broke, discouraged and down on his luck.
Once in my life, he could have been me.
Since the Kansas City Council has passed the proposed panhandling ordinance, it is now illegal for him to stand where he was standing, asking for money.
If this had happened a few days later, he would have been subject to rousting by the police, perhaps even arrest.
If he was panhandling on the Plaza, in Westport or at Zona Rosa, he wouldn’t even have been permitted to speak to me.
Maybe he’s one of the Veterans Affairs-estimated 195,000 homeless veterans on any given night. How easily yesterday’s “heroes” become today’s pariahs.
Can’t we at least dispense with the hypocrisy? This ordinance is not about public safety, as stated. This issue is merchants’ concern for appearances, for sanitized shopping venues where paying customers won’t have to confront the stark realities about our city.
Shame on all of us.