Panhandling is a growing problem in Covington

I live just outside the Covington city limits and frequently shop in Covington. I am concerned about the growing panhandling problem in Covington and it’s effect on the city’s economy and its future prospects. I know that the city wisely prohibits aggressive begging and begging within a school zone. I would like to suggest that Covington consider strengthening that ordinance along the lines of what Tacoma has done. In Tacoma, panhandling is not allowed within 15 feet of the following places citywide: building entrances, ATMs, bus stops, parked cars, pay phones, gas stations, car washes, and outdoor cafes. It’s not allowed at any time on buses. And you can’t panhandle at intersections, freeway ramps or in any way directed toward traffic. Finally, panhandling is prohibited in Tacoma from dusk to dawn. The penalty is up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

I know that many kind-hearted people want to help the homeless, but it is said that, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” A misplaced tolerance for and support of panhandlers by a given community is often a factor in its subsequent economic deterioration. This deterioration of a community’s economy is an unintended consequence of people’s good intent which ultimately hurts the vulnerable homeless population most of all. It’s important to differentiate between panhandling and homelessness to encourage charitable giving while discouraging giving money to panhandlers.

For those of us who support local businesses in Covington and who are alarmed at the growing problem of panhandling in the shopping malls, streets, store entrances, and public places like the Covington library, I sincerely hope that folks will continue to give, but to give wisely, giving with their brains as well as from their hearts.

Will Cummings

King County