By Frank Lewis
I recently drove up Gay Street and at the corner of 11th and Gay a panhandler had a sign about being homeless. across the street on the other corner was a guy with an elaborate set-up including umbrella and a chair, and even a dog. One block north, another man held a similar sign. I turned left on 12th Street and at the corner of 12th and Chillicothe, there was another guy, again holding a much more sophisticated, professionally produced sign.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to drive anywhere in the downtown Portsmouth area without seeing these people. It is unsightly and not a very welcoming sight for people driving through town.
I am a huge believer in helping your fellow man or woman. I believe if someone is hungry it is my responsibility to feed them.
Isaiah 58:6-11 reads – “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
I believe we are our brother’s keeper, but here is my dilemma. I’m beginning to believe these people are not just people “down on my luck,” but people who have become professionals at panhandling. They collect fistfulls of untaxable dollars every day, and while they have made a life out of panhandling, there are many people who really are in need of a helping hand and I believe these people ruin it for others who have needs.
I know a man who approached a guy with a sign that read – “will work for food.” He asked if he wanted to help him dig post holes on his property. The answer was, as expected, “no.”
The latest method being used is women who troll the parking lots at super markets and big box stores and accost you as you go to your car and tell you they are traveling somewhere and need gas money. Some of them have been doing that for months.
By the way, they don’t just do it here. They travel to Waverly and Chillicothe as well.
I make it a point to find a way to directly assist people who need a little helping hand. There are churches and social services agencies who know where the needs are and can point you in that direction. Better yet, you can donate to those church’s projects such as food pantries, or the social services agencies, and let them dispense the money where it is needed most.
Meanwhile, it is becoming more and more a part of the fabric of our lives here in Scioto County and it looks like nothing can be done about it and therein lies the real tragedy of it all.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.