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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday June 23rd 2024

Letter to the Editor April ’22

Two Reactions to Articles in the March 2022 Issue:

For Marti Maltby: Please stop perpetuating the myth that panhandling and homelessness are the same thing. As a block leader who has tried unsuccessfully for years on behalf of my block club to get some kind of regulation of panhandlers, I have been told by neighbors that they could actually identify a house where the panhandlers lived at one point. These are the people I encounter at literally every street corner and, in my neighborhood, all up and down the 35W entrance and exit ramps. And yes, as I have also been told by neighbors, every one of them was high on something when the neighbor attempted to speak to them. They and their friends leave their needles and other paraphernalia for little children to find or step on, creating a public health problem. And when one of my neighbors asked a panhandler to please not panhandle on the sidewalk surrounding his corner lot, he was rewarded with a brick through his truck window. Both members of my block club have now sold their homes and moved away, citing panhandlers as a primary reason. If you live in an area of the city where panhandlers hang out it is a problem for all sorts of reasons. But please, don’t equate a panhandler with a homeless person. They are not the same thing.

For Melanie Majors: You are absolutely right. The last city council ignored residents and simply pursued their own unrealistic goals for their own political gain. We have a small window of opportunity to perhaps start things in a new direction with the new city council, depending on how responsive they are, and also, whether or not residents are willing to get involved. The previous city council was perfectly happy not to have any input from residents who were understandably discouraged that they received absolutely no response to phone calls or emails. It meant that they could just do whatever they wanted. I can’t tell you how many Minneapolis residents I have talked to in the last year who have no idea what ward they live in or who their city council representative is. That must change. I am happy to report that my own new city council representative not only responded to my email, but set up a phone meeting between us and included the city council president. They listened and promised to get back to me on what they are doing about the problem. So we shall see.

Janet Skidmore, Minneapolis, near 3rd and Lake Street

Response from Marti Maltby, author “Peace House Community– A Place to Belong:”

I am sorry to hear about the problems that Janet and her neighbors are experiencing. Her frustration is understandable and appropriate in the situation. However, I didn’t intend to equate homelessness and panhandling. My column focused on treating others respectfully when we don’t know their stories, and not assuming the worst of others. Janet is correct that the homeless and panhandlers should not be equated, but they are not mutually exclusive either. Some homeless individuals panhandle, and some don’t. Some of the homeless cause problems for those around them, and some panhandlers are respectful and cheerful to those who pass them. The point is that we can’t know a person’s entire story by lumping that person into one broad category.

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