Have you noticed a dramatic uptick in the number of panhandlers on the street corners in and around Akron lately?
You find them stationed at the off ramps from Route 8 near downtown and the University of Akron, and you see them now in Fairlawn on Medina Road. In Fairlawn! The signage is familiar: corrugated cardboard usually in black marker, homeless, desperate for work, often veterans. And something I rarely ever saw before, women are panhandling with signs and so forth.
They’re too desperate to care about the shame or embarrassment of being seen by someone who might know them.
I look away, I avoid eye contact. And at times I feel perilously close to finding myself in a situation not much better than theirs.
A photo display of homeless people was a popular (and cliched) subject for college photographers of a certain era, so I don’t want to get too crazy about photographing these poor schlubs. I look at them and think to myself, “There but for the grace of God …”
Something else about these homeless panhandlers. Some of them look like they’re new to the business. The Nouveau Broke. The ones who, like many of us, have worked and worked for years and suddenly find themselves shit outta luck. I try to keep the profanity on my blog to a minimum, but sometimes other words fail to convey the situation. Yeah, there’s always going to be a substantial portion of homeless people with mental illness, substance abuse issues and other stuff going on. But some of these people, clearly, are different.
They don’t belong there.
They’re a higher caliber of bum.
There’s a lot of that going on around here.
And yeah, it bothers the hell out of me.