To the editor:
My family and I have spent many hours downtown.
Regarding Michelle Babcock’s letter (Public Forum, Oct. 22): Two of the incidents she described are serious criminal acts (assault and assault and battery) and have absolutely nothing to do with panhandling or homelessness. To believe so would be similar to equating crime with race. The third incident she described was aggressive panhandling, which also is forbidden by ordinance in Lawrence. Attempting to further limit panhandling isn’t likely to help in any incidents such as those described. By the way, I trust all these crimes were reported to the police.
I myself have never witnessed even slightly aggressive panhandling downtown. The panhandlers nearly always sit quietly, out of the way, holding signs, and rarely even speak or make eye contact unless they are directly addressed.
And yes, Michelle, homelessness is scary, but by far the most “frightening aspects of the homeless” are experienced by the homeless themselves. Those truly wishing to limit the impact of homelessness in Lawrence can help by supporting the shelter initiative. (Shout-out: Great job, Loring Henderson, and thanks!)
And merchants, there is much that can be done to alleviate homelessness, and improve Lawrence in all ways, other than these attempts to stifle panhandling, which come off as petty and mean-spirited.
Please, let’s try to remember compassion, while being thankful that our own lives have not taken us to the desperate extremes that these people — humans all — find themselves in.