Beggars' ban-writ: Is panhandling law unconstitutional?

Is Charlottesville's ordinance banning panhandling near the Downtown Mall crossings and from patrons at cafés unconstitutional? That's what the attorney behind a lawsuit filed last Thursday morning in federal court alleges.

"You cannot set up the Downtown Mall as Disneyland and keep all the realities of America away from public discourse," says the attorney, Jeffrey Fogel, who worked in conjunction with the Virginia ACLU to help several frequent downtown beggars launch a legal battle over Constitutional rights.

"Anyone who walks on the Downtown Mall has seen someone seated with his back up against the wall, simply holding up a sign saying, 'I'm poor, homeless, and need help.' How is that harming anyone?" asks Fogel. "The answer is: it isn't, and it's protected by the U.S. Constitution."

The June 23 lawsuit asserting that the City's ordinance violates both the First and Fourteenth Amendments doesn't come out of left field. In fact, Fogel suggested he was considering a lawsuit late last fall when City Council revised its ordinance to ban solicitation of any kind within 50 feet of the Downtown Mall crossings. The new ordinance also prohibits soliciting "from or to" anyone sitting in a café or exchanging money with one of the numerous downtown vendors. That language, the suit alleges, is too vague, making it a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Proponents of the reworded ordinance, including Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, cited safety as the main consideration, but Fogel sees something more sinister.

"To pass and enforce this is treating the homeless on the Downtown Mall as a lower class, not entitled to the rights of anyone else," says Fogel, noting that other types of communication are allowed near the crossings.

"That's where the heart of this matter is legally," says Fogel, who held a press conference announcing the suit in front of City Hall. "It distinguishes what you can and can't do based on the message. Content-based restriction on speech," he notes, "is the most frowned-upon form of discrimination in the First Amendment."

The issue took center stage last fall as downtown business owners sought to cut down on panhandling, which they feared was keeping customers away.

"You're a caring person in a caring community, so when someone asks you for help, you want to help right then and there. But wouldn't you feel better if you knew exactly where your money was going?" read the text of an ad proposed by Downtown Business Association head Bob Stroh and Main Street Arena owner Mark Brown.

The two men had collaborated with Kaki Dimock, executive director of downtown homeless day shelter The Haven, to come up with the wording of the ad– similar to campaigns that have run in other cities. And Brown believed they'd reached a compromise that would help those in need while respecting business owners' desires. But resistance to the campaign– which would have encouraged donations to homeless-helping nonprofits rather than contributions to panhandlers– quickly killed it before it ever went public.

News of the lawsuit dismays the Arena's Brown.

"The City of Charlottesville and City Council have worked hard to help impecunious people," says Brown, echoing language used in the suit. "And for this guy to sue the city when it's done so much to help people get back on their feet seems foolish."

Norris, who voted in favor of the updated ordinance, also contends the case has no merit.

"It's a stretch to say we've made it difficult to exercise freedom of expression," says the Mayor, estimating that "at least 90 percent of the Mall is still open" for panhandling, and adding that he'd hoped to see the restrictions on panhandling go further by banning solicitations within 15 feet of cafés– something he says the city attorney nixed.

If Norris is vocal in support, City Council is not unanimous in that sentiment. At the lawsuit press conference, Vice Mayor Holly Edwards, who voted against the revised ordinance, voiced her concerns.

"I struggled with the ordinance when it came before Council," says Edwards, who will step down when her term ends in December. "I knew it wasn't going to solve the problem; it was going to move it."

Edwards says she's less concerned with the outcome of the suit– "It's in the hands of the court now," she says– but hopes it will prompt fresh discussion for the city "to address economic justice issues across the spectrum."

Of the five plaintiffs, only one, 27-year-old Earl McCraw, spoke at the press conference, although another defendant, Christopher Martin, stood nearby.

"My freedom of speech is being prosecuted," said McCraw, alleging that police routinely threaten him with trespassing charges as he sits on the Mall holding a sign, while at the same time they ignore musicians whose instrument cases are thrown open for cash.

As Fogel spoke to the members of the press, the presence of the Charlottesville Free Speech Monument just a few feet away didn't escape his notice.

"It's quite ironic to have a free speech wall," Fogel says, "when people aren't allowed to engage in free speech within a short distance from that very wall."

Read more on: Jeffrey FogelPanhandling


A. They all get food stamps and have access to the all the shelters so they are not going hungry.
B. They beg for one reason and one reason only. Drugs and alcohol. FOOD IS SUPPLIED BY THE SHELTERS AND THE GOVERNMENT!!!!
C. Does this mean that any person can put a sign out anywhere they want for any reason?? If you are a business downtown you must get a permit approved for any sign that you put out.

Why doesn't Mr. Fogle invite them all to his gated community??
hippo crit.

If money changes hands for "consideration" it is a busines transaction. Paying the homeless to get out of your face is "consideration. If even ONE person feels that way then the Government has a right to regulate it. I feel that way, Regulate it. End of story.

The panhandling has definitely gotten worse. Specifically, the aggressive and/or intoxicated acting-out that I've seen makes me less likely to shop or eat there. I'm sure I don't know what the solution is, but Mssrs. Shadyac and Fogel don't seem to care about the rest of us - just their specific constituency. The space belongs to everyone, yes, but everyone has a responsibility also to behave in a way that is both lawful and respectful of other people.

How many cups of change is it gonna take to settle this lawsuit?

Is that guy in the picture wearing a Snuggie?

I love taking my family down to the mall to see the bums. Now my boys get straight A's! Seriously, they have no "right" to set up shop anywhere they like and harass people for money.

Perhaps Mr. Fogel will help represent (for free, of course) the businesses on the Mall that are being hurt by the presence of the panhandlers - oh wait, my rights aren't important to him.

On one hand the City has passed this law but at the same time on the other hand they funded an SRO housing which is 1/2 for the homeless. If I'm walking the deposit from where I work I don't want to be stopped by anybody. Last week or maybe it was Monday, Geenpeace stopped me on the way to the bank. I told him I was working (I didn't say see I've got a deposit-I am working) and he continued till I walked away.

I wonder how much $ Mr Fogel has given to these panhandlers to go buy booze and drugs? They get free meals at local churches on the mall and assistance everywhere they turn. Turn off the freebies and they will re-locate somewhere else otherwise they will be on every corner (which is becoming more frequent if you haven't noticed in Cville lately). I work on the downtown mall and the prompts for 'hey bud, can you spare some cash' gets old and the looks you get when you say "no" aren't exactly friendly.

It's uncomfortable when someone asks if you can help them with some change or a couple bucks I get that but how uncomfortable is it to ask? I would agree for many it's easy and they make the choice to not make the effort to better themselves but take a minute to think about the guy who had what you have now and because of lay offs & the economy he's lost everything including his pride so this is how he feeds his family. The shelters are packed, churches aren't handing out 3 meals a day and the genious who said they all get food stamps, well you're wrong. The same rights that give you the priviledge to look down on these people give them the rights to do the best they can or know how to survive. If they're breaking the law and bullying people I agree they should be escorted from the mall but a person sitting quietly with a card board sign, that really bothers you? Who are you to judge? Want to see what it's like, leave your car, cash, credit cards and cell phones at home and try and survive a weekend homeless.

I'm sure they're paying taxes on their panhandling income, right?

You have rights as a citizen. You also have responsibilities, and if you ignore those responsibilities the government will abridge your rights. In most places.

Rob - would you mind if they set up in front of your business and/or home ? It is easy to be compassionate when it doesn't affect you, a little more complex when it costs you customers or makes your wife and family uneasy.


I honestly think a few of those on DT Mall are definitely the unfortunate, unable to work because of mental illness, or that have lost a job through no fault of their own. But those are the very few. That's because those folks are the ones who somehow seem to be out there reinventing themselves, or working with what agencies doe exist, to stay as stable as possible. I think of Bag Lady Betty and the Tin Man.

The rest are either substance abusers who simply cannot make the commitment to get off what they are on, or others who really do choose to just live a transient life on the kindness of strangers. Well, I am sorry, you aren't impinging on my rights to walk freely, and I think you will find the Constitution does not protect Pan Handling under freedom of speech.

It's amazing how the concept of freedom of speech has been stretched while at the same time govt. at all levels has become increasingly authoritarian in a militarized fashion. All you have to do is go to a football game at UVA (something I would never submit to) to see the hordes of jack-booted thugs glowering at all the game goers lest they get too frisky. But then you try to take a walk on the Mall and find the place crawling with people who are intoxicated or psychotic (sometimes both), filthy, unkempt, and frequently vulgarly uncivil in their behavior. I don't go there because it creeps me out and I'm sure many elderly are frightened by it.
It's really a shame to have public resources spent (some would say squandered) to build a venue which is supposed to be a place (an agora if you will) where the community can gather together for some pleasant down-time, only to have the experience spoiled by the intrusion of panhandlers. This lawsuit is a brazen challenge to the goodwill of this city and further evidence that stronger measures are called for to persuade these folks to move on so we can clean up the Mall.
It makes one nostalgic for the good old days of vagrancy laws and county work farms.

I checked, nothing in the constitution about the freedom to mooch; so get rid of them.

I find it hard to believe that the five panhandlers banded together to find a lawyer to sue the city. Did Mr. Fogel initiate this whole thing and why ? The city of Charlottesville has bent over backwards to aid the homeless and I have been supportive of many of the programs using my tax money and additional contributions to dozens of local agencies. Mr. Fogel's only accomplishment with this suit will be the withdrawl of any support I may provide in the future - enough is enough.

There are MANY resources available for the homeless to get food, clothing, shoes, medical care, legal assistance, education (if they want it), even phone and internet access, for free. The only reason they panhandle is to get money for booze, drugs, and cigarettes. The attorney who compared the panhandlers to other recognized and REGULATED charities which solicit donations for the benefit of OTHERS owes the nonprofits an apology.
Waitresses, taxi drivers, hotel bellman, etc all have to report tips and gratuities to the IRS and pay taxes on this income. It is time to regulate the panhandling commercial enterprise by requiring them to get licenses, confine themselves to restricted areas, and pay taxes.

Old Timer, panhandling has been determined to be a protected form or speech and expression. The only thing that means, however, is that it cannot be outlawed. Reasonable restrictions can be made to give equal protection to all. All in this case equals: Business owners, vendors, customers, drivers of crossing vehicles, and those who solicit.

City Code 28-31 ( ) is titled "Soliciting" and the definition in the code is as follows:
"Solicit means to request an immediate donation of money or other thing of value from another person, regardless of the solicitor's purpose or intended use of the money or other thing of value. A solicitation may take the form of, without limitation, the spoken, written or printed word, or by other means of communication (for example: an outstretched hand, an extended cup or hat, etc.)." .

The fallacy of this suit is that it is based on grounds that the code is discriminating against one particular group of solicitors. The wording is very clear. The complaint is about enforcement of the written law, not the law itself:
* "My freedom of speech is being prosecuted," says McCraw, alleging that police routinely threaten him with trespassing charges while he sits on the Mall holding a sign even, as he says, police ignore musicians playing with instrument cases thrown open for cash. *

One last point and a question, once you infringe upon the rights of another citizen, you forfeit your own rights. Can we file a class action lawsuit against Fogle and his firm for wasting City tax dollars and resources after he loses his case?

Best Comment Award (Congrats, Christador):

How many cups of change is it gonna take to settle this lawsuit?

Now that we're becoming a third world country
an increase in panhandling is to be expected.
Big deal. As for taxes many people are paid
cash only--there is a huge underground
economy. But the rich with their tax shelters
have everyone beat cold. Check out how much
big companies pay in taxes if anything.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! The liberal, bleedingheart city government supports soup kitchens, shelters, and "havens" for these people to hang out at. Then they turn around and thow a fit and threaten to sue the city.
These people don"t know how lucky they are to be getting away with what they do. Time was when they all would have been rounded up and run out of town, escorted to the county line with burly cops whacking them with billy clubs every step of the way. Or arrested under vagrancy or loitering laws and put on a chain gang for hard labor.
The same reason for not feeding bears in the national parks applies to these lowlifes. If their goodies are cut off they are likely to become hostile and aggressive.

The businesses on the Downtown Mall aren't suffering because of these people, they're suffering because their product is 2 stars and their prices are 5 stars. This TOWN is full of some of the most pompous, self entitled, over privileged, brats I have ever been forced to live and work with. I am here because my contract requires me to be here TEMPORARILY because they couldn't find anyone qualified to handle the work. I've been begging to let me move back up north where surprisingly the people are friendlier and less stuck on themselves. Communities help each other & compassion isn't something you have when the spot lights on you and you'll gain recognition. The funny thing, this town isn't that nice, there's no real culture, no true museums, fine arts or theater. You have UVA and a bunch of people in their BMW's with Gucci hand bags judging each other - yesterday I felt sorry for the panhandlers, today I realize the people with the bigger issues are you. I dare even one of you to live for a weekend as a homeless person. I tried it, I live it for only 4 days in Atlanta and it changed who I am and how I look at people. If you can judge them, try living like they do for a weekend and get back to us.

At the national and local level nothing the least controversal is settled until there is a lawsuit over it. The health reform act, the Meadow Creek Parkway suit being a national and local examples. I'm surprised there isn't one over the Water plan yet. The C-ville Weekly in their local Power issue didn't include any Judges, big mistake.

Recently I was at the 29 North Kroger and marveled at the man who was working at returning and stacking the shopping carts. He had to have been in his mid to late 70's and walked with a slow, limping gait. And he was methodically going about his work. It was inspiring and very humbling.

I'm not one of the right wing "get a job" types that propel Bruce Hornsby tunes. I'd gladly contribute to feed and house someone who just can't make it. But these guys, for the most part, need to piss off and go play checkers between meals if they can't find work. There is a new crop of aggressive, surly human seagull littering the mall, and it ain't right. Let's put them on a bus to go sort recycling and pay them for it. Or just pay them to go clean up the trash they leave along the Rivanna and other places. And if they're truly not up to that then just give them a meal and a bed and have them amuse themselves quietly without being the obnoxious louts that they are.

Bravo to Holly Edwards and to the posters Rob and Mer. Free speech rights aren't something we're supposed to abandon when yuppies get uncomfortable.

The real issue is not that some people are getting actively and aggressively harassed. Some are, and the police should address that and ban repeat offenders, just like they do in the parks. The issue is people being uncomfortable looking at the homeless in general and feeling that their presence might impact sales on our Disneyfied mall. I see a repeated mob attitude among the well-off directed against the homeless, and it's disgusting. You don't have a "right" to be comfortable.

I may be poor (poverty level income), but at least I'm getting by. I'm grateful that I don't need to use social services, and grateful I'm not addict or mentally ill. So why would I begrudge someone who is worse off?

Quit your whining. Do what we do in New York (or when on vaction in D.C. or San Francisco), ignore them. If they keep at it, look 'em in the eye and say "f**k off".

Amazing how people take the high road when the problem doesn't effect them.

If you were the owner of a business and watched potential customers avoid your store because of something that made people uncomfortable I do believe you would complain also.

Are we talking the same town - the town that has the finest Aboriginal art museum in the country, Live Arts, Paramount, IX Theater and so many music venues that its hard to keep track of them - over three hundred resturants, over ten bookstores, one of the top USA tourist destinations. This community has done far more than most to assist the less fortunate. Where are you from "up north" that can come close. Let us know who to contact at your main office so we can help to expedite your transfer.

I do not think Mr. McGraw is going hungry. Just look at those "man boobs" dude!

I go to the mall every week day to walk, I bring my lunch and I do not shop there because as I said earlier the owners of these stores and restaraunts have average at best product and WAY above average prices. Your failing business is not the fault of the homeless so stop using them as an excuse. Deliver a better product and don't price it as if you're running a high end store in Beverly Hills. I'd also challenge you to ask one of them a question, I watch you all, I wear a shirt and tie and people smile and ask "how are you" then walk another 15 feet and look away at the next guy who's trying to figure out where he'll sleep tonite. The truth of the matter, I'm a jerk, I can't stand any of you two faced snobs in Charlottesville, I'd rather tell you to go screw yourself than smile and say hello but maybe the man you look down on and ignore is someone who would love to have a stranger say hello, or how are you? The next time I am at the downtown mall maybe I will take one of these guys into a restaraunt with me and buy them a meal. Would that make you uncomfortable? It's helping your bottom line so I would imagine not right???


I live in Bostons Back Bay. Look it up and then let's talk.

Hey, Rob, you don't live here, so while we appreciate your brief stay, your criticism of us and our community is unwanted. If people here are angry about the intoxicated bums in our public parks and shopping areas, it's because they care about this area and keeping it nice. We raise our families here, we own homes and businesses. Let us know when you have invested your time and money and reputation in something substantial and real.

I, in fact, do not have a "failing business" - so far the only thing that you have said that I agree with is "I'm a jerk" You may not like the businesses on the mall, but what has that to do with a group of people who are impacting my ability to feed my family. I do not want to run them out on a rail - I support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and the dozens of agencies that the local "two faced snobs" support. You are correct in assuming that I have never been homeless, I have always been able to find a job and have worked numerous minimum wage, crappy jobs. The other day one of the panhandlers asked for change for coffee - my response was to offer to buy him a cup - he told me to f---off. Next time you are on the mall feel free to take one to lunch and put your money where your mouth is. I am sorry that you are having a miserable time here in Charlottesville - I have lived literally all over the world and like it here most of all.

Hey Henry I own 2 houses near down town, 1 house in Earlysville and land in Crozet. My kids, wife & I live in Earlysville . We also own a home in Boston. I invest plenty into buying, rebuilding and then selling properties in Charlottesville. My money is spent to make Charlottesville nice. Does this give me the right to look down on the less fortunate because it makes someone uncomfortable? We invested in this town and we've bought, fixed and sold 8 properties already, I'm proud to say we buy them fix them and then sell them below the market value to help people become 1st time home buyers. My biggest challenge was finding a realtor who would go into "areas" after the sun went down or who wasn't hell bent on making the most money they could per property rather than understanding my business. By low, fix them up and sell lower than the people around you - turn a profit and help someone get into their 1st home.

More importantly Henry, they're not "intoxicated bums" they're people. Try talking to one of them you chicken shit.

Dave as I said in an earlier post some of these people would rather have the hand out. You offering to buy a person a cup of coffee is a classy thing to do and maybe if more people took that appoach the people who are just there trying to get change would find somewhere else to hang out once they realized there are good people who will buy them a cup of coffee but won't hand them a dollar. Obviously you did the right thing for the wrong person.

"In 2010, there was a continued crackdown on panhandling, especially the aggressive type, in downtown Boston. Summonses were being handed out, with scheduled court appearances." Perhaps if your attitude was just a little less abrasive and less "holier than thou" more people would pay attention to what you have to say.


"The businesses on the Downtown Mall aren't suffering because of these people, they're suffering because their product is 2 stars and their prices are 5 stars."

I can't argue with that. There are a few good places in the area, but the majority are so so that try and have hipster looks and charge outrageous prices. The places that are really good, like Blue Light Grill, don't have a problem staying in business. Same as in the County.

"This TOWN is full of some of the most pompous, self entitled, over privileged, brats I have ever been forced to live and work with."

Amen to that too. The County is full of them as well. And they make everyone else who tries to live a productive life miserable.

Unfortunately, that does not excuse those who do choose to beg as part of a lifestyle choice. I am not talking about the few folks who really are so unstable mentally, or disabled they really don't have much choice.


"I see a repeated mob attitude among the well-off directed against the homeless, and it's disgusting."

I see that against the poor in general in this county. As if the well off didn't have something to do with the poor being poor. The socialism for the rich via lower ax rates is pretty much the proof in the pudding.

Dave it's not intended to be abrasive, it's personal. I lived it, when I was younger I was foolish and didn't save any money went pay check to check until the company I was with transfered from Boston to Charlotte, NC. I was given 3 weeks to find another job and couldn't. Aggressive types, you're right they should be delt with but looking down on people who are struggling makes me angry. You come across as a good guy and a reasonable person, I am sure you can understand how someone who's lived their life can become passionette on a topic like this one when they're only 13 years removed from it. I got my "break" in life out side of a Burger King from a man who was a real estate investor and put me to work cleaning out properties after I asked him for money for a burger. He took me into the BK bought me lunch and talked to me. That lunch & a person like him talking to me helped bring my self worth back to me. We're now business partners. I got lucky, it was a one in a billion kind of situation but he's also made a small fortune on the properties I've bought and sold with him. You just never know how you can impact their life or how they can impact yours. People are alway's capable of surprising you sometimes, for the good.


Is it correct in assuming that you give money to everyone that comes up and ask you for it?
Is it also correct in assuming that you offer everyone that ask you for money the same opportunity that was offered to you?

Beware of biting the hand that feeds you. Charlottesville is a pretty liberal and generous town but I see a major backlash coming. I feel very uncomfortable encountering the beggers on the mall and it is not just Yuppie guilt, they have become more unpleasant, glaring at you and muttering under their breath if you do not pay up. Hello! I am struggling to make ends meet, working 2 jobs, you are sitting on your ***.
The young ones particularly get my goat. I have a child in Afghanistan. If she can get her act together and face what she is facing your can get off your duff and find some kind of employment. Right now there is a shortage of pickers in GA because of the imigration crackdown. I am sure the growers whose fruit is rotting on the trees would be delighted to see you and guess what, it is still cooler down there than in Afghanistan and you will not have to wear Kevlar!

One way ticket to Boston sounds good to me. Put "Rob sent us" stickers on their carts.


No I don't give anyone money, I offer them a sandwich, a cup of coffee or a soda when I have it or there is a store near by. The other thing I offer them is the courtesy of a simple hello. A lot of comments on here are 100% accurate in saying many of these people could do better, the person who has a daughter in Afghanistan, thank you sir and thank you to your daughter. We're all lucky to have people like you and her represent this country. I guess the point I have been trying to make would be is it really that hard to NOT kick a person when they're down? We all want our families to be safe and comfortable I get it, cracking down on repeat offenders of brash behavior is realistic. It's troubling when so many of us assume because a person is homeless they're a bad person or a "drunken bum"

Stopping panhandling on the mall is like putting your finger in the dam, does no good. Just avoid the mall if you don't like it. This is a small thing.

In general I've tended to be sympathetic to the homeless over the years, especially when it's clear that they're missing limbs (usually the older guys who've been in wars) and other handicaps. But lately on the downtown mall I'm seeing more young, able-bodied people just sitting on their butts looking for people to pay their way. Granted, I can't know what their situation is, maybe they have mental handicaps that are not evident at first glance and which prevent them from holding down a job, but considering that some of them have humorous signs it says to me that they're probably not mentally handicapped. They're just lazy and entitled.

Here's a tip, and this is coming from what I've seen for myself and what I've overheard others saying on the mall: You stand a better chance at getting money if you can provide people with something. Be it music or entertainment of some sort. People don't want to see you just sitting there on your able-bodied behind with a humorous sign, being quite obviously lazy. They love the one-man-band types who play banjo and harmonica at the same time while sitting on a bucket set up to be the drum that they play with a foot pedal. They love the fiddle players. We've all seen the hula hooping fiddle player down by Central Place. They love the small ensemble groups that sing and play their music. The musicians draw in small crowds who gather around and tap their feet, filming with their digital cameras, while little kids flail their arms and jump around trying to dance. :D I remember last year and back before that there used to be this guy who'd sit near the children's carousel down by the Discovery Museum and play a harmonica, guitar and sing. He was pretty cool, and always provided this really nice background music when I'd be sitting on a bench on my lunch break. He improved the scenery because he provided something beneficial. I gave him money several times, and I miss him now that I no longer see him around. But that's what you do if you want money. Do something that impresses or entertains, ie, earning that money. But don't just sit there on an able-bodied behind expecting the world to pay your way. Nobody respects that.

@ Rob, I have mixed feelings about this whole argument. On one hand I agree with you, helping the less fortunate is pretty much always the right thing to do. And this is certainly a town of "haves" and "have-nots", agreed. Since you've bought, remodeled andsold 8 properties, I would say you have no problem taking advantage of all the "two-faced snobs" here in town. Probably best not to sh!t where you eat.

But...I think your blanket condemnation of this city and it's residents, with whom you personally do not agree, isn't much different than the people you are arguing with. The fact is, people do care, people will help. If this weren't true there would be no homeless shelters or soup kitchens or any of the number of outreach programs available to the less fortunate.

I care. That said, I do not want to be accosted while walking the mall. And this may seem harsh, but I think if we say "ok, have a seat, hold your sign, someone will be right with you", we will be opening a can of worms we are ill-equipped to deal with. Homeless folks go where the pickings are good. It's just common sense. The fact is we have a lot of homeless on the mall because C'ville IS a homeless-friendly place, because we value people. We need to find a way to respect shoppers, business owners and pan-handlers alike...and maybe each other?

Your move.

omgitspaul - well said

Panhandling doesn't do anyone any good and it's certainly not a viable way to make a living.

Also, I find it REALLY hard to believe that people are avoiding businesses on the mall.....because of a few panhandlers. That's ridiculous. I agree with Rob who said "Deliver a better product and don't price it as if you're running a high end store in Beverly Hills." Truer words could not be spoken. The other day I went into a certain Mall establishment and asked how much was one of their blueberry muffins, and I was told it was $3. $3 for a little *muffin.* Wow. I can get a muffin in the morning over at the Country Store on the other end of the Mall for $1, so, uh, no thanks, I think I'll pass on that overpriced muffin and hold out for the Country Store. And hence, that establishment was out some money. No sale.

I went into another establishment, a popular lunch time eatery where I was told that a fish taco was going to be **8 bucks.** !!!!! I looked at the cashier like, WTH?!? Switched my order to an - overpriced - bowl of soup instead. I mean, I *have* the money, but it's the *principle* of it. I'm not paying $8 for one taco, and $3 for one muffin, despite the fact I can afford it. No sale. I won't support that.

And that's not even counting the clothing boutiques. Do we even need to go there? I don't buy my clothes at the overpriced boutiques on the Mall, because everything is inflated to at least three to four times what they're worth. $200 for a pair of - really ugly - women's shoes in the window at one shop towards the east end of the Mall, won't name names. It would be one thing if they were cute, but they're like the ugliest shoes you've ever seen. $60, $70 for *a blouse* at another women's clothing store down towards that end which has either moved locations or folded, I'm not sure. $20 for a pair of *leggings* at that same store, where I later found almost identical look-a-likes for a couple of bucks at Marshalls.

Small sized ice cream and gelatos at other unnamed places for almost **$5 each??** Are they out of their freaking minds??! Again, me and my boyfriend *can* afford it.........but it doesn't mean we're going to be chumps and pay that. I don't care if it's homemade, I'm not paying almost $5 for a small little cup of ice cream or gelato. No sale.

There's another shop that will go unnamed, but it sells all kinds of trinkets and do-dads and whimsical sorts of things, and they have teapots for $55, earrings for $30 a pair, and everything else with a jacked up price. I can, and do, buy my own beads and make my own earrings for less than half the cost, and which most times look better than whatever they're selling. I will never, ever pay that kind of money for jewelry I can, and do, make myself, and which looks better. No sale.

I truly think the shop owners are trying to find a convenient scape goat to justify their lack of sales, and the panhandlers make a great target. What happens when you get rid of the panhandlers and the sales are still low? How will they explain it away then? Face it shop owners, these are bad economic times, people are pinching pennies, and your products are over priced. It's not a good combination. Don't blame the panhandlers.

@ boooo!, Not to defend the scalpers prices on the mall. I avoid a lot of the mall for the same reason. I think a lot of those prices are tied to the cost of a lease on the mall. Not all, but part of the price. And when business slows you jack up the prices because the rent is still due. It is, as they say, what the market will bear.

Rob why don't you go survey ten people soliciting on the mall and try to find out why they're unable to work. Not unable to "find a job" but unable to work. Then report back.

And when you're back in the Back Bay go by the Travis restaurant on Newbury. If Leo Travis is still alive please tell him he's still remembered for giving me a job when I was on the skids in the Back Bay.

Re: the lawsuit, to me it distracts from more important issues. It's more about community and less about law.

I have observed the narrative Rob found himself in 13 years ago to be pretty common among those whom I know who are homeless. Throw in a divorce, jail and/or an addiction and your life can really spiral into the toilet. It’s really a matter of cycles and unless something breaks that cycle (like the guy who bought Rob a burger and gave him a job), you will remain there.

Like Rob, I never give money. I don't want them panhandling. I want something better for them. What I will do is have a conversation, and often. But that’s my thing, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes you get the “F-Off”. But quite rarely in my experience. I make sure they know about the resources here (which there are some great ones). In some cases I've been able to give them the contact info for someone who could give them some work.

Once Rob finished making broad generalizations about people who live here, he made some good points. These "bums" are human beings. Life sucks when you’re begging and if you’ve got a monkey on your back (be it an addiction or debt or whatever), it can be worse and you are desperate. They know it more than you think they know it. The problem with generalizations (even my own above) is they can't account for individual stories. The key is to move beyond stereotypes and get to know these guys.

My proposal is that rather than pity, or pocket change, or indifference, let’s harass them back with sincerity and love. By love I don’t mean “Kum By Ya” type love. I mean love that wants what’s best for the other person. If you want what’s best, then you’re not going to give them your pocket change. You’re going to make a connection. You’re going to show them that Rob is wrong, that this is a community that cares about people. We’re not going to give you pocket change, but we will give you attention—and maybe not the attention you want. Sometimes that attention might lead to something positive. And that just might break the cycle.

Does this solve the problem? Of course not. It’s only one part. But it might. Look what happened to Rob! Maybe someday one of these “bums” you see will re-enter life again, his monkeys summarily slain, his life on track and he will contribute towards helping someone else.

To me that’s what community is all about.

booo - you are certainly entitled to shop anywhere you want - the people who sell the ice cream hire local people , pay huge rents, a business licence fee, etc. (as do all of the other shops you mentioned). You make it sound like they are leeches sucking your lifeblood - they are just folks trying to make a living. I'm glad that "me and my boyfriend *can* afford it" and it is certainly your choice to shop there or not - just don't be so judgemental. With all the money you save by going to the inexpensive store you probably have some extra change for the panhandlers.

@ Dave

"With all the money you save by going to the inexpensive store you probably have some extra change for the panhandlers."

Indeed, I do..............for the ones who deserve it, as already mentioned in one of my earlier posts. Not for the able-bodied lazy youngin's loafing about with a sign, thinking this is a better way to make money instead of actually having to work. My sympathies lie with those who truly *can't* work, due to disabilities and war injuries, and who have to resort to public begging and alms in order to survive.

"....just don't be so judgemental."

I'm not judgmental. I'm stating facts, about what prices are for various things on the Downtown Mall. If you can't tell the difference between facts, and moral condemnation/judgment, then there's probably not much I can say. How you choose to interpret other people's words, and whatever you project onto those words, is your doing.

The main point of my post though, in case you missed it, was that I don't really think that panhandlers are the main issue driving away business on the mall. I think they're a scapegoat and diversion. The real issue is most likely bad economic times, causing people to pinch their pennies, and be more reluctant to fork over the dough at the pricey Mall establishments......................whatever the reason for that overpricing. All businesses seem to be suffering during these times, but especially overpriced boutiques and businesses that provide luxury, vs. necessity. You, as an apparent Mall store owner, are obviously defensive about me citing real life examples of the overpricing I've encountered on the Mall, rather than realizing the bigger point I was making about scapegoat panhandlers.

Your right I probably am being defensive, but it seems to me that America became great through it's manufacturing ability and the tens of thousand small mom and pop type store that were locally owned and hired local people. We no longer make anything in this country and the small stores are being driven out of business by stores (like Marshalls that sell seconds and overruns) and big box stores that import foreign made items, undercutting locally produced items. It is not a matter of selling overpriced goods - the goods reflect the cost of bringing the item to you. As more and more people pinch their pennies more and more small shops will close - eventually we will just all order from Amazon and the only jobs available will be UPS delivery people. Personally, as
/if I can afford it, I would rather buy a book from New Dominion than Amazon or Sam's Club - might be stupid on my part, but I think the benefit to society is worth the extra money - my thoughts on coffee, gelato, fish taco etc are the same - if they are well made I'm willing to pay a little extra so Macdonalds and Dairy Queen don't become my only options.
I never intended to imply that the panhandlers were the sole reason for the difficulties that some of the Mall stores are currently having - the economy is tough.
As an aside I have yet to talk to a disabled person panhandling on the mall who was disabled through military service, although one or two of them indicate "disabled vet" the disability did not occur during service.

As Barracks rd shopping center continues to gentrify, putting in a pedestrian centra gathering place/mall, and if Stonefields gets built out as promised (big promise) there will actually be competition for the downtown mall. The panhandlers wont be at the other 2 locations.

I've been homeless on and off for the last 4 years. I occasionally play guitar on the mall, but I find it difficult, as I see it as a form of begging. I fix computers to make my meager ends meet. I have NEVER accepted any form of help from the government. No food stamps, no housing assistance, no welfare of any kind, no business loans, no grants, nothing. I'm sure you all have never accepted a handout either. Please don't make general assumptions about homeless people. We are not all vacuous ingrates.

That said, I do not believe the homeless organized this farce, but a lawyer who is tired of chasing ambulances.

RE: "To pass and enforce this is treating the homeless on the Downtown Mall as a lower class, not entitled to the rights of anyone else,"

Probably meant to say "the same rights as everyone else", but the wording is revealing.

Obscenities are not unknown when the pedestrian fails to fork over.

I encourage all to spend their money elsewhere.

That will solve the problem instead of merely addressing it.

I live by the downtown mall and frequent it often. I have noticed that the regular panhandlers, from disabled vets to UVA arts students, will not so much as speak to you unless you approach them and begin the conversation yourself.

There are occasionally the fakes, the 20 or 30 year old guy holding a sign saying they need money to get home. The fakes will approach you and beg money, but if you say no and walk away, I have never seen anyone being chased down or harassed.

If you have been chased, harassed, or cussed at, then you probably should have just walked away instead of being a jerk instigating a confrontation. I think we need an ordinance that bans yuppie jerks like you all from the mall so that my family and I can enjoy the mall and the people without having to look at @$$es like you.

Sorry, boooo, but I am one of those who rarely go to the DT Mall any more, and it is because of the "panhandlers" and vagrants. We have young children. A year or so ago, their school decided the Mall would make a great field trip to learn about community, transportation, and architecture. Thank goodness we had plenty of chaperones, because one creepy guy kept trying to join the various small groups, and was particularly interested in conversing with any child who fell a little farther behind the rest of their classmates.
Not long after that, I went to buy pool passes, this time it was three men oogling my pre-teen daughter, and making inappropriate comments about her.
The Mall is an accident waiting to happen. I'd love to take them ice skating, to the Paramount, or some of the other activities, restaurants and shops there. I'd love to take out of town guests there to stroll about. But it is no longer my first choice for my leisure time because of the the safety issues. You can choose to stick your head in the sand and ignore it, but I know lots of parents who feel the same way.

@ Dave:

"but it seems to me that America became great through it's manufacturing ability and the tens of thousand small mom and pop type store that were locally owned and hired local people. We no longer make anything in this country and the small stores are being driven out of business by stores (like Marshalls that sell seconds and overruns) and big box stores that import foreign made items, undercutting locally produced items. It is not a matter of selling overpriced goods - the goods reflect the cost of bringing the item to you...."

I do realize this, and in many instances I do choose to shop at Mom 'n Pop stores, for that very reason. But I don't do it exclusively. And there is no question that for people on a limited income, they're going to absolutely pick Wal*Mart over a pricey downtown mall establishment 100% of the time if possible. We're going to see more and more of that in these times.

I mean, I can get a pint of Ben and Jerry's (and sometimes almost a gallon of Bryer's) for the same price as a tiny cup of ice cream on the mall. I can make my own jewelry for less than half the cost, and I can make my own food for less than half the cost of most of the restaurants and cafes on the Mall. For should *never* pay $15, $18, $20 for a plate of pasta like what you see on the Mall. Mom 'n Pop joint or not - pasta, tomato sauce and can get all those ingredients for cheap at the store, and make your own tasty meal. Plus you can get an entire *bottle* of wine for the price of one *glass.* (and that's true for any restaurant, not just Mall establishments.) I understand why the Mall establishments are as pricey as they are (big rents, etc.) but again, in these economic times, people are being forced to find cheaper alternatives, and are forced to learn how to make or do things for themselves for cheaper. It's just what it is.

"As an aside I have yet to talk to a disabled person panhandling on the mall who was disabled through military service, although one or two of them indicate "disabled vet" the disability did not occur during service.

For me, it wouldn't matter whether somebody's disability and/or missing limbs did or didn't come from military service (though I have met homeless vets where this *is* the case....) All that matters is that they *are* disabled, and unable to work as a result. So I'm not sure what your point is in saying this. It's like, Okay, so, the disabled panhandlers you've met weren't vets..............................and? ???

@ twinmom

I get what you're saying, but the problem is, there are plenty of non-panhandlers who are also going to be ogling pre-teen girls, or maybe looking for little children to prey upon. And this is true of any large, outdoor public gathering, unfortunately. So many sick weirdos in this world, and it seems to be getting worse every year. I won't deny that for some people, this is their reason to avoid the downtown Mall....but let's be honest, it's not just pan handlers that do this, and it isn't just the Mall. You have to keep your eye on your children everywhere you go nowadays, and pervs everywhere are going to be eying up your daughter. Are you supposed to forfeit all public places for that reason?

Basically it would be nice if the rents on the Mall were cheaper, so that the retailers could in turn charge less for their products and services, thus enabling the average public to partake in the Mall more often and up the revenue intake. And it would be great if nobody ever had to beg in this world and "impose their presence" on others, and if there were no pervs and weirdos lurking about in populated public areas, ogling passersby, and posing a threat to children. But we don't live in that world. So, now what? There is no way to adequately fix all the problems in such a way that everybody is going to agree. All you'll ever have is a mass of unhappy people who can't agree 100% on anything and who fruitlessly go round and round and round and round about things. The end.

Rob, You make a few points I agree with regarding the quality/price ratio of some of the DT establishments, but to be generally believable you need to get your backstory straight. No one asked you about it, but you seem to think it adds some weight to your messge.
In one post you're here because you have a contract that requires you to be here TEMPORARILY (the caps are yours) because you're the only one "they" could find who was qualified to do some sort of work.
In another post, although you believe Charlottesville to be full of snobs that you can't stand, you, your wife & kids live in Earlysville, and you're some sort of real estate magnate, owning homes hither & yon in the area.
You're a really busy boy for someone who's under contract to someone else and is only here TEMPORARILY. And you have all this time to enter into running arguments on message boards too. What a little bundle of energy you must be.
Since no one cares about your imaginary friends or personal life, think it through a bit before you tell people about it.

@twinmom: Perhaps you should invest in some burkhas to protect your delicate flowers. Or, you could take them out in public on the mall or other 'scary' places and teach them how to exist in society. Your choice.

I realize that to some extent the high prices on the mall are a reflection of the high rents, but as a consumer, my only way to protest the high rents is to NOT buy anything on the mall. Then the stores go out of business, the space sits empty and the landlord loses money. Eventually, the landlord realizes he is charging too much rent. Eventually he charges what the free market WILL bear, and the shopkeeper is able to charge prices that people ARE willing to pay. Expensive rental property is a risky business venture. If the shopkeepers aren't willing to take that risk, then they need to head up 29 to cheaper rentals. the entire economy is over-inflated. Buy-nothing day needs to become buy-nothing YEAR for the entire economy to start getting the message that we won't pay this many hours' wages for these kind of goods. I encourage all people to grow as much food as you can on your own property, learn how to mend clothes or even make clothes, and just use the downtown mall as a place to socialize, not to spend, until the prices come down across the board. As for the beggars, I am sadly familiar with their drug and alcohol use rates and their frequent criminal charges. I've been hit up for money by young people dressed more expensively than me, saying they wanted to buy something better than what I was planning to have for dinner. Never give money; ONLY give food. A person that would use the money responsibly probably wouldn't be asking for it without offering a service in return anyway.

Right on,Carrboro Pete.Maybe "Rob" is doing most of his posting at the Central Library,hogging computer time along with his fellow bums.

Stuff White People Like # 61: Knowing What's Best for Poor People.

And by #61, I meant #62.

Maybe some of the downtown merchants should take a page out of other towns' approach. The nicer areas of Coastal California are favorite resort communities for the panhandler subculture. Professionally done signs are posted outside of places like Trader Joe's or Starbucks pointing out to patrons the virtue of charity and providing lists of organizations that provide help to the unfortunate and accept donations. The signs urge patrons to make donations accordingly but not to pass out alms directly. Then there's places like Ocean beach with the stickers being sold:

Campaigns like this go a ways towards marginalizing panhandlers and giving the public the idea that they have every right to rebuff importuning behavior.

@ J

Want to say thanks for "Stuff White People Like" link. Too much of it mirrors me to a T, and for that I'm getting a good laugh. Who knew I was a cliche?!?! But alas, I am. (not being sarcastic either.) Tom's of Maine toothpaste? Check. Fan of "My So Called Life" back in '95? Check. Wore the plaid skirt and combat boots back then too (much to my dad's chagrain, who, like the blog notes, probably thought I was a lesbian)? Check. The South American world music CD bought from (Peruvian in this case, not Bolivian) musicians on the Mall? Check. I recommend everybody start at the beginning home page:

Too funny. ;) Anyway, back to fighting about panhandlers........

Solution? BUM FIGHTS. Pay them $5 each to beat the crap out of each other. Winner gets an Old English 40.

Problem solved, with bonus entertainment value. Next problem please…

Will they exercise their rights during the coldest of weather, or are they headed south then?

What about the mall visitors rights?? I think they are entitled...............

The more I think about this- why don't they go and beg at town hall? That is where all the money is!

oh booo HO!!!!!!

Where did Rob go? I enjoyed his take on the situation.

why,he's still flipping houses while ensconsed in his contract work.