Froma Harrop paints a very powerful picture of panhandlers. “A projected $12 billion will have been invested in downtown Indianapolis between 1990 and 2017,” she writes. “Armies of panhandlers would make these efforts for naught.”
Wow, are homeless people tearing down new buildings in the Midwest? I think what she means is no matter how many nice things we surround ourselves with, we still can’t seem to shield ourselves from the affects of poverty, mental illness and abuse.
While simply turning a blind eye is bad enough, Harrop goes one step further and vilifies the beggars. “Few panhandlers are homeless, and the poorest, saddest people are not among them,” she writes. “Panhandlers tend to be aggressive hustlers.”
Imagine if beggars painted journalists with the same broad brush? Few journalists base their work on facts, and the most well-read columnists in the nation are not generally among the few that do, would be the corollary. Those journalists tend to be manipulative hustlers.
In my experience with beggars and journalists, the beggars seem to understand the journalists a lot better than the journalists understand the beggars. This isn’t good for beggars or journalists. And, by extension, it’s bad for the rest of us too.
In the interest of curbing this communication gap: Froma Harrop, meet Randy Dolinger. Randy Dolinger, meet Froma Harrop. You both write about homelessness, but do so from opposite ends of America as well as opposite ends of the social and economic spectrum.
Randy, Froma works for the Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s paper of record, and writes a syndicated column that runs in newspapers all over the country including your newspaper of record, the Ashland Daily Tidings. She sleeps in a house in a city. Froma, Randy authors this blog about being homeless in Ashland, Oregon and he’s done a lot of work to organize and empower the homeless community there. He sleeps in a tent in a forest.
Randy, Froma is considered a liberal by mainstream Rhode Island journalism standards. Froma, in Ashland, where both Randy and I have seen anti-aggressive panhandling campaigns devolve into police officers creating a “watch list” of homeless people for business owners, your column would be considered conservative propaganda.
Froma, Randy isn’t a beggar. By some definitions, he isn’t even unemployed or homeless. In many ways, he serves the same role in Ashland that John Joyce did here in Rhode Island – he is a liaison for those who are beggars, unemployed and/or homeless to the rest of society. He has run for city council, led various civic efforts and is a respected voice among Ashland’s establishment class and its anti-establishment.
Randy, Froma sometimes has opportunity to visit the newspapers her column appears in and I know she’d love to spend some time in Ashland. I’m hoping that next time she does you two can meet up for a latte or maybe even a game of chess. I think you two have more in common than maybe any of us expect.