I realize that not all panhandlers are like me (some are drunk or on drugs), but I have seen other single moms and pregnant women panhandle on the streets. When I did have two two jobs and was going to school full-time, I used to give to those type of panhandlers. I remember one time, I went and bought three to four bags of food just so a pregnant panhandler could have something to eat. So what ban panhandling and then we become homeless with our kids and then what? Everyone is always so quick to judge. Not everyone is poor because they want to be.
You could read more of my story by clicking here: http://bookstore.trafford.com/Products/SKU-000560155/Unlimited-Creative-Corporations.aspx and http://www.amazon.com/Unlimited-Creative-Corporations-First-Collaboration/dp/1466922397. I am a United States Orphan who started professional creative writing in 1995 at the age of 12. I am also a single mother of two beautiful girls. I was under the custody of Department of Social Services from 12 years old until 18 years old, which is when I was released on the streets homeless and pregnant by a convicted sexual offender. I have been desperately fighting ever since then to get off of welfare. I used to sleep on Broad Street when I first became homeless. I was pregnant and no one would help me and the shelters were all full and would not take me. It was generous people that kept me alive by giving me food and helping me out. I remember that police would threaten to throw me in jail when the tourist came into town, if I didn't move. So I walked on Broad Street from where MCV Hospital was all the way to Willow Lawn Mall everyday. I did this every day between 3 and 6 months pregnant. Willow Lawn Security even took a picture of me back then because I was holding a sign that said "Pregnant and Homeless" and I was asleep. It wasn't until I threatened Richmond DSHS that if they didn't help me I would sleep on their doorstep, that they finally helped me. They put me in a nursing home on Grace Street where I was sodomized by one of the staff members and the residents and staff kept stealing the little money I made while working at a CVS. At 8 months pregnant, that nursing home kicked me out because they said that I was a liability to them and they only let me stay there as a favor to social services.
I am not asking to be rich, but I am asking that the government not get involved in panhandling issues unless the panhandler is drunk or under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Let generous people make the decision whether or not to help out or not.
Panhandling is very important because some people just need a little extra help even though they may have a job and are trying their hardest. Gas and childcare are very expensive. As a single mother, I bust my butt to do as much as I can, but sometimes that's just not enough. Not everyone is a hustler and panhandles just because they love to do it. As a matter of fact, I think majority of people who panhandle probably hate it just as much as I do, but as a mom, I am willing to try to do whatever I can for my children. It is hard getting out of a car with your child and holding up a sign, especially in the cold. Sometimes, you just have no other option. Social Services is very limited and can only do but so much. I am trying to prevent my daughter and I from becoming homeless again. I am not trying to get rich, just to keep my head above water. Panhandling helps that. It helps you make it to the next stretch. It gives you hope that you can succeed and do better. I don't neccessarily need the help of finding a job. I just need the help of paying for good quality night and weekend childcare which is something that VA Social Services has very little resources of. I have had babysitters who just quit on you for no reason, ones that bring strange men in your house when you are not home, and ones that call you while you are working to come and get your child when your child isn't even sick or just has a cough.
Not everyone has the same luxury of looking for work like woman in one of the above stories. I used to work two part-time jobs and go to school full-time. I was working at GRTC/Keolis Transit and Dominoes Pizza as a Delivery Driver. I had started trying to save some money, but my babysitter quit on me. I was not able to find another night/weekend babysitter and I had to quit both of my jobs. It is hard being a single parent trying to make it out here. Babysitters and daycares want to charge you $10/hour when you only make $8/hr. I am also still employed through the Richmond Marriott but I have no babysitter...so I am not on the schedule, but they still send it to me via e-mail.I had been panhandling with my three year old in Henrico trying to get gas money and money for babysitting just so I can go to work. I was questioned by two police officers in Henrico who at first stated that as long as my sign didn't ask for money then I was okay, but then changed their story about fifteen minutes later. They said that Henrico had a new ban against panhandling and that my daughter and I should go to Richmond.It sucks because when I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a really good job in Dallas, TX working for a contractor under TSA (Transportation Security Administration). I had medical, dental, 401K, and everything. About four months before I was supposed to have paid maternity leave, the company announced that they were laying everyone off. I had worked my way off of welfare and in 2009, was put right back on.I am currently still in school and social services was paying for my childcare in conjunction with me working a job at Beth Shalom Lifecare Community. However, I have been working on my degree for about 13 years and am finally about to graduate in May 2014. Social Services told me at the end of September that they will no longer be paying for my childcare because my two year term for TANF had ended. I was devastated because it was right in the middle of the term and couldn't just quit school. If I did, then I would have to pay back all of the Financial Aid I had just received. I again had to quit my job due to no babysitter. I have tried everything. i have posted an ad on Craigslist. I paid for an account onCare.com to try and find a babysitter, but still had no luck.It is like a trickle down effect. If I can't panhandle the money for gas and a babysitter soon ($590/babysitter and $300 in gas cards) just to let me make it until my next financial aid check which is issued in March, then everything for my daughter and I will fall apart. Not everyone has the luxury of looking for work or finding a great job. I have no problem with the job because I could continue working at the Marriott Downtown Richmond...but I would only make $8/hr. My biggest problem is finding a babysitter who I can pay with that little bit of money and also pay for gas to get to work. I am all over the internet, I have experience in different areas, but no degree, and that's what a lot of really good companies are looking for....Degrees, not experience. I just hope my daughter and I can find a place in Richmond to panhandle before it is too late.
U.S. House of Representatives
Richmond City Council Richmond City Council
Richmond Times Dispatch Richmond Times Dispatch
Raise The Ban On Panhandling, Solicitation On Street Medians, and Solicitation On Sidewalks