Give homeless an alternative to begging


Editor: The question of what to do with the homeless begs another question; what do we want them to do besides panhandle downtown? If we chase them out of “illegal” campgrounds, where are they supposed to go? Those are not rhetorical questions, but rather ones that need serious answers.

If we had a safe shelter where the homeless could go, and a reliable source for meals, we could post signs downtown stating where these resources could be found by those needing them, and that handouts were not necessary for survival.

I suspect this would diminish the panhandling problem; begging need not be made illegal in order to make it unnecessary and not worth the effort.

Now, it is true that St. Francis house is available as a shelter for some of the homeless. But its resources are limited. And it is true that some progress is being made on a new homeless shelter; land has been acquired near 207, and limited construction has begun. A number of very dedicated people are working on this.

But it is also true that progress has been slow, and that faster relief is needed. Our community needs to provide some help for the homeless between now and the time that the ideal facility will be finished. Money would of course help. But some changes to zoning and regulations might also be needed.

Shelter need not be elaborate. A tin barn-like structure could provide some relief from cold, rain and blazing sun. Even a legal place to set up tents could provide a major improvement. Restroom and shower facilities like those found in most campgrounds would be tremendously beneficial. A few add-ons like primitive heating, washing machines, etc. would be nice. It may be possible to set up such facilities on the land where the more permanent structure is being built.

Both compassion and self-interest argue for providing an alternative to panhandling that keeps the homeless from starving or dying from exposure.

Drew Sappington

St. Augustine