Kenneth L. Hardin: I wish beggars here would be more selective

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 14, 2023

Oh, how I wish the old saying that beggars can’t be choosers was not so true. Going anywhere in this city, whether it’s to the post office or sitting at a stop light, you’ll be accosted by someone pressuring you for a handout. I very rarely carry cash, but with the pervasiveness of this growing scam in this little slice of marginal Heaven, it won’t be long before the street corner, sidewalk and intersection perched hustling urchins start accepting debit and credit cards.

Is there no recourse from being inundated and overrun with this madness? Surely the city has a panhandling ordinance on the books that we can fall back on. It’s probably located somewhere between the ordinance of how long an abandoned house can be boarded up, putting your living room or den furniture on the front porch and cars parked on the front lawn at the steps of a home. It’s obvious those visual blights in this historic little burg are strongly and consistently enforced (wink, wink), so how hard could it be to stop the progression of people making a living at the expense of other’s generosity and safety?

I would rather go to the dentist and have a wisdom tooth extracted without a numbing agent or buy a used car from a sleazy salesman at a pop-up side street lot than go to  the local main post office on East Innes St. I’ve cut back my visits to once a week now due to the beggars hovering around like vultures circling vulnerable prey. I’ve had to tersely and at times angrily respond to a host of varying requests. I’ve heard, “my car ran out of gas down the street, my baby needs diapers and I don’t get paid until Friday, the shelter won’t take me, I just want to get something from KFC,” and the golden oldie great, “Do you have any spare change?” My response to that is what the late comedian Robin Harris hysterically shared in a comedy routine, “If you want some spare change, go get a spare job!”

I’m not hard hearted and can empathize with anyone who’s struggling when ends are not even close to meeting in the middle. But I can’t find a semblance of concern for anyone who is able bodied but would rather take advantage of another’s charity rather  than rolling up their sleeves and working. If you’re homeless but have the foresight, ingenuity, and capability to locate a piece of cardboard and a marker, craft a sad statement and stand out in the elements, then you have the ability to find  work. As a veteran who advocates for others that have worn the uniform, there’s no reason a former military member should be standing on a corner seeking pity. We have one of the largest VA Medical Centers in the region and other agencies like the Goodwill Career Connections Center that have programs to assist veterans. There’s a consignment clothing store two doors down from  the Veterans Social Center inside the West End Plaza that will help veterans and anyone. The owner doesn’t make it widely known, but she’ll give anyone two to three bags of free clothing if they’re truly in need. I’m certain there are many other individuals and agencies in this county that will readily do  the same.

I guess the scam is easier than actually putting  in the  effort to work. On a recent trip to the post office, a man standing on the sidewalk as I exited my car asked me for directions to the Novant hospital. As I was giving him the route, he interrupted and said that he preferred it if I just took him. I loudly told him to get away from me. When I came out, he was asking other people for  money. I sat in my car and watched him for several minutes. After noticing, he walked  away heading south, so I followed him. He went into the parking lot of the Housing Authority apartments and got into a truck that was much nicer than my vehicle. I wondered if his game plan was to get in my vehicle and at some point, rob me. If so, he would’ve had a very unpleasant experience.

There’s danger in these beggars. At the intersection of Jake Alexander and Statesville Boulevards, they play a dangerous game of frogger running up to car windows when the light turns red and stops a vehicle. What’s going  to happen when either someone panics and pulls a gun, or you get one panhandler so desperate they commit an armed robbery? Even in the video game, the frog sometimes gets hit crossing the street.

Beggars might not be choosy, but I am. I won’t give them a penny. It’s time to address this.

Kenneth L. (Kenny Hardin) is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists