During the city council debate on the panhandling ordinance a couple of weeks ago, one member of the public who spoke against the ordinance said he felt more threatened by all the students who congregate in downtown after school than be did by any panhandlers. In response to that comment, I asked a couple of Lowell High students I know to respond to that concern and to the panhandling ordinance in general. One of the students, Amanda Rosa, accepted my offer. Here is what she wrote:
I am surprised that the city of Lowell would pass an ordinance on panhandling in the downtown area. As a high school student I do congregate in the downtown area at several times of the day. During my time at Lowell High I have never come across the “aggressive panhandlers” that seem to be the issue.
Students from Lowell High tend to always spend time after school because of our busy schedules. Athletes, band members, and members of several other clubs all stay for extended periods of time in the building and because there is no food available after lunch, some of us go to the businesses downtown to buy snacks and refreshments. None of the students that I spoke to had a specific complaints related to the panhandlers.
I do have a problem with this ordinance because it is punishing people for things that they have no control over. It makes no sense for a person that parks in front of my house to get a $25 fine and a panhandler to get a $50 fine. A driver obviously has money for gas and car insurance in order to be driving. A person panhandles because they are in need. I understand that the $50 must be to discourage the activity from occurring but those people in need will still be in need. The problem of poverty in Lowell won’t go away with a fine. I hope that the members of the city council did not just vote on this and are ignoring this perennial issue. Now that the panhandling is restricted there should be action to provide aid for those with less fortunate circumstances.