Readers are deeply divided on how panhandlers should be treated in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
A woman with a baby was asking for money on Thanksgiving Eve at Colony Plaza. A photo and story in Villages-News.com elicited more than 500 reader comments and numerous email responses from readers.
The readers’ responses ranged from skepticism about the panhandler to scorn for those unwilling to help.
“Saw this lady this year and last year. Appears to be same baby if that is possible. She was hiding a nice cell phone, but that was probably a gift,” said Ray Shelor of the Village of Dunedin.
After shopping at Publix, Shelor returned to speak with the woman. She had vanished, but left a trail of trash.
“I am responsible for my decisions in life. I accept that, but as I get older and see more and more of this, I am inclined to accept the fact that I am not my brother’s keeper as there are way too many brothers that want to be kept,” he said.
Kimberly Brooks is among the skeptics and she doesn’t think the situation makes sense.
“In this day and age where people can get free assistance ranging from government programs, food stamps, food pantries, and charity organizations to help women, vets, and people in need, plus a plethora of jobs to be had, there is absolutely no need to beg on a street corner. They are looking for free money. Instead of standing holding a sign for handouts, maybe they should apply that time to actually getting a job. Heck, there are even places that will pay you to stand on the street corner to hold their sign advertising for that business,” she said.
Brooks is also a veteran and she is particularly sensitive to those who beg and claim military service.
“As a former soldier myself, it sickens me to see panhandlers with signs claiming they are vets. They are nothing but parasites preying on people’s patriotism and sympathy,” she said
Dwight Johnson worries that giving money to panhandlers can make the situation worse.
“When you give to panhandlers, are you fueling a drug or alcohol situation? Well maybe, and if you are that means the kids are probably doing without proper food. I am one who sometimes will throw in some change, not always, but depends on my mood,” he said.
He recalls seeing a man smoking a cigarette, asking for money on U.S. Hwy. 441.
“He did not get any money from me, but I always leave thinking, ‘What is really going on there? What’s the real story?’” Johnson said.
Lynda Pare tends to give panhandlers the benefit of the doubt.
“I believe panhandlers should be treated with the same respect that you would treat your loved one. I always give them food and money because I really don’t know if that money could be used for a call to a loved one and their whole life could change,” she said.
Melba Pack concurs that panhandlers should be treated with respect.
“God says whatever you do for the least of these, you have done unto Me. It’s not my job to judge whether they have an actual need or not. That’s God’s job. He said it is more blessed to give than to receive,” she said.