Letters to the Editor

We need a break from panhandlers

Any long time resident of Federal Way will agree that our busiest street corners have long been popular workstations for cardboard sign wielding persons requesting food, money, or occasionally even beer. This activity, although a visual nuisance, has been tolerated partly due to community compassion, but mostly out of indifference (laws notwithstanding). In recent months, however, I have noticed what seems to be a sharp increase in aggressive face to face panhandling in the Federal Way area. I am not familiar with the City’s laws concerning this behavior, but I know that I find the practice at best obtrusive, at worst unnerving. No longer can I view requests for assistance at an I-5 onramp from the safety of my car! Our community has fallen victim to direct and personal pandering by tenacious, hounding, and even harassing panhandlers.

The several interludes I have experienced are unlike the brief ones you might have in passing while visiting downtown Seattle. No, these aggressive panhandlers approach with a smile, get a name with a handshake, and then plea for money. Each time with an answer of no, I have been followed to the store with my name being used, coupled with requests for me to stop. I have even had my path blocked while carrying a child.

Last week I performed an experiment of observation; I sat in my car for half an hour and watched a parking lot panhandler in action. I found that if you are in a suit or nice dress and drive a BMW you are safe from approach. However, if you are in a company car, or are wearing blue collar clothes you are a target. It’s even worse if you have kids with you.

I do not believe that these panhandlers are lazy freeloaders. From what I’ve seen their job seems to require a lot of hard work. They are independent contractors who float from parking lot to parking lot depending on their success ratios and which stores they are chased away from.

I believe that many of them are sick persons due to addiction, mental illness or even extreme family strife who need help in the worst way. With every bit of reasonable compassion I can muster I, as most people do, sincerely wish them resolve and happiness in their lives.

I’d simply like to be able to walk from my car to a storefront without interruption.

Matt Weinberger

Federal Way

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