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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE: Begging for a solution

It's not entirely fair to say that Greensboro has a homeless problem, but it's arguable. I say it's not entirely fair because every major city - and really just every city, town or municipality - will statistically have people who fall through the cracks of institutionalized welfare or, through bad life decisions or plain bad luck, just have their rug pulled out from under them. So then, to say Greensboro has a homeless problem is to say that it has an abnormally large number of homeless. That, unfortunately, is a hard fact to prove. It's not as if we can send out a questionnaire or do a census; people without homes are sort of hard to track down.

What is fair to say is that Greensboro has a panhandling problem, and that these two issues are not necessarily one and the same. Not every homeless person begs, and not every beggar is homeless. Sweeping generalizations seem to be tricky here, but there is one thing that most beggars do have in common.

The Guilford County Substance Abuse Coalition's latest newsletter details a study done by their Resource Teams. The study showed that "by and large once a panhandler had received sufficient funds, a trip was made to the nearest convenience store where alcohol was purchased and, shortly there after, consumed."

The newsletter goes on to say that "through surveillance and investigative encounters the Resource teams learned that the majority of the chronic panhandlers were abusers of alcohol, however the abuse and addiction to other drugs was also noted."

This study proves what most people assume anyway: the uncomfortable truth that most of the people you see begging are going to pour the change you give them down their throat a few minutes later.

Full column


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