June 11, 2010

Use Technology to Solve the Panhandler Problem

The wise Solons of the Rochester City Council recently decided to take a closer look at the expanding popularity of panhandling in our fair city; this after the mayor and others experienced the effrontery of beggars hitting them up for a buck or two on the Peace Plaza.

It's one thing to have cardboard sign poets staking claims on off-ramps and overpasses, mining motorists of their compassion—that's tolerable—but when they start migrating downtown and advance to shoulder-tapping, that's something else entirely.

Whether the downtown beggars are cut from the same herd as the overpass panhandlers is questionable. I've personally been hit up for spare change by beggars downtown in times pre-dating the panhandling phenomenon. I've even been asked by individuals, on occasion, if I've found Jesus, as if one has gone missing. Regardless of their origin or intent, the downtown beggar variants are admittedly annoying, and for some people I can imagine they're somewhat intimidating. The panhandlers, by comparison, are mostly a visual nuisance.

So, what to do about the problem? The city council wants to look into the possibility of licenses for beggars, which is a curious solution. A panhandler is just a panhandler, after all. But a Licensed Panhandler almost sounds distinguished, as if they're panhandlers who can also inspect a house's electrical work.

Rather than legitimizing panhandlers, I think it might be far more effective to give them one of the biggest things they hate: exposure. This being the information age, with the omnipresence of digital cameras, cell phone cameras and relatively-inexpensive digital video cameras, I propose having some fun with the panhandlers.

Take their pictures. Conduct video interviews with them, if they're willing (don't be a jerk about it). Just as they're free to park themselves on an overpass and mope for dollars, so too are we free to take their pictures. They may not like it, but there's nothing they can legally do about it.

But pictures and videos aren't enough without a place for them to live. To the Internet! I figure, if Web sites dedicated to dog and cat pictures can thrive online, there simply has to be an online audience willing—nay, eager—to surf through panhandler images that have been altered to include humorous captions, along the lines of http://www.icanhascheezburger.com.

Yes, I can envision millions of people Googling their way to http://www.panhandled.com (looks like that domain will have to be purchased from GoDaddy.com. Figures!), where hilarious content awaits of panhandler images with such captions as "I'm on ur overpass, lackin' mah dignity" or "Oh, hai guyz! Spare me some change?"

After awhile, the word will get out to the panhandlers, and they'll eventually find themselves one evening in their apartments, perusing the Web on their laptops (which they totally have, trust me), and they'll see some of the most unflattering pictures of themselves imaginable, complete with captions mocking them mercilessly.

The results of such an online approach to the panhandler problem, I imagine, will be twofold. First off, panhandlers who don't respond well to merciless mockery will give up their career path and seek actual gainful employment. Second, it will make panhanders a national laughingstock, and motorists will opt to take their own pictures rather than hand over cash.

I'm telling you, this is a surefire cure.

Posted by Ryan at June 11, 2010 01:09 PM | TrackBack

exposure to panhandlers may provide public service, toughening & desensitizing Minnesota 'nice'
ie. in case 'lost decade' imminent

can vouch seeing one leisurely reading investment pages of wallstreet journal at lib.
so agree... bring back KTTC i-team!

though they might reciprocate w/panhandler grindr equivalent !

Posted by: dc at June 11, 2010 09:37 PM

I like it. Out here it would get you stabbed or shot though.
I hate those guys, and carry mace for that very reason.

Posted by: Donna at June 15, 2010 08:22 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!