Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Durham, Can You Spare a Change?

It must be generational that so many people email me or call me separately about this blog but so few actually insert comments. I'm just glad that my Mom and I have company

INC is on to something with the "Can You Spare a Change?" campaign. INC for all you folks who don't live in Durham is the InterNeighborhood Council of Durham. They are the umbrella for what arguably is the most diverse and active group of neighborhood associations that exists in any community... certainly any I've known.

Neighborhood activists are also a key part of Durham's brand.

Several programs have been tried like "Can You Spare A Change," but this one resonates. It seeks to educate residents, non-residents who work here and visitors to stop feeding money to panhandlers and instead give it to the many agencies seeking to help this population. It is a classic supply and demand problem. The behavior thrives only because people feed it.

Panhandling itself is a result of some decisions this country made 40 or 50 years ago, and in hindsight, they were very impractical and idealist. We dumped millions of people with mental illness on the streets as out-patients on the premise that someone mentally ill was still well enough to stay on medications.

Okay, along came our generation and the book and movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," and we forever more glamorized mental illness by demonizing practitioners.

Fact is, there is nothing glamorous about mental illness. It is criminal what we do to the mentally ill in this country. To save a nickel here and a dime there, we deny them health insurance, we create a revolving door in and out of prison, we drain and destroy families struggling to solve the problem all on their own.... In the end, this is probably five or 10 times what it would cost to do it right.

But in the meantime, we can all make a difference by getting behind INC. For information contact INC at Change@InterNeighborhoodCouncil.org.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Reyn. It is "required reading" for my children, reinforcing the message (spiel) to which I subject them when a panhandler approaches our car.


Ginny said...

When I first moved to Durham from southern Illinois, I felt compelled to give some change to anyone who asked. A few weeks into life in Durham, I was walking in Brightleaf after dark with a Durham native and we were approached by a panhandler. My friend told him that panhandling was illegal after dark and then he called the police on his cell phone. I remember yelling at him, and declaring he had no heart. Then he explained how panhandlers tarnish Durham's image as well as efforts to draw more visitors downtown because it can be intimidating and/or a turnoff to potential visitors. After that, I rarely gave away any change. At night, I always pulled out the 'panhandling is illegal after dark' line and that seemed to quell the panhandlers. I like this campaign and slogan a lot. I hope it helps.