I am all for helping poor women and children. I am even all for helping poor men. What I am not for is doing it at intersections in the Gainesville District. We have enough traffic problem without having to put up with panhandling by church groups. There are other ways to help the poor.
I have had several reports that intersections in Gainesville and Haymarket this past weekend had a church group out asking motorists for money at most of the major intersections in Haymarket and some of the intersections in Gainesville. While I salute the cause of helping the poor, I don’t salute snarling traffic or panhandling on public property.
I don’t know if this church group had permission from local authorities or not. They should not have been granted permission. If one church group is allowed to panhandle, then all churches should be afforded the same right. Can you imagine what we would have on our hands? Every weekend people just out trying to do their errands would be snarled in traffic. Getting from point A to Point B would become a nightmare. People would avoid shopping and doing business in those areas. If the competition on weekends got too heavy for all the churches, they could hit commuters up during rush hour.
This practice must stop. Where were the Haymarket police? Where were the Prince William County police? Unfortunately, people feeling guilty for calling the cops on churches out working for charity. Some of us don’t.
I am all for the local fire departments out at intersections one weekend out of the year collecting donations to support fire and rescue activities and needs. I always drop a couple bucks in the “boot.” It’s traditional yearly event and they do remind us about road safety, once a year. Fire departments are also supported by our tax dollars. Heretofore, they are the only group I can think of who have been permitted to take donations at intersections in the past. Church groups have not and should not. They need to find another way to raise money. Panhandling and pestering motorists is not acceptable.
Church groups aren’t exempt from following the laws of the county. We don’t allow panhandling in the county. If one of those poor people this group wants to help came up to the car to, in essence, beg, most motorists would think nothing of picking up their cell phones and calling the police. It simply isn’t safe to be approached by strangers at intersections. Did we know the people at this fundraiser? Probably not. Do we fish out our wallets in front of people holding a sign representing a church? We probably shouldn’t. How do you know for real who they even are?
Allowing panhandling at intersections is a bad idea. It causes congested traffic jams, it institutionalizes panhandling, it could present danger, and it gives license for all other charities to follow suit. This practice must not happen again.