This unemployed man and his dog are in the spotlight for their success at getting handouts. Their story offers a window into the debate over panhandling.
Americans are generous. It’s that spirit of giving that’s enabled an unemployed 43-year-old former theater stagehand to rake in roughly $200 an hour panhandling in the Big Apple.
You read that correctly. Panhandler Will Andersen, who is jobless but not homeless, collects $200 an hour from generous New Yorkers, according to The New York Post. Andersen said he sits with his 9-year-old dog Rizzo outside Grand Central Terminal with a sign reading: “Spare any change for me and my pooch.”
Andersen’s success at panhandling has allowed him to move off the streets, where he had lived for three years, and into a room that he rents with his begging money.
“I get people who give me five bucks each day. Five bucks each day, that’s five days a week, two people — that’s $50 a week right there. I get dog food. I put away for rent. I pay $300 a month, that’s nothing,” Andersen told the Post.
Panhandling has proved to be lucrative for Andersen and a “legion of beggars in [New York] hauling in big bucks and a smorgasbord of food doing nothing but sitting on the sidewalk with hands out,” according to The Post.
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton recently came under fire for urging New Yorkers to quit giving money to panhandlers and homeless people if they wanted to see vagrants off the city streets.
“My best advice to the citizens of New York City — if this is so upsetting to you, don’t give,” he said, according to The New York Daily News.
“One of the quickest ways to get rid of them is not to give to them,” he added.
Mary Brosnahan, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, dismissed the commissioner’s approach.
“If he thinks the number of people in need is going to diminish because people don’t give, he’s mistaken,” Brosnahan told the Daily News. “You have to follow your conscience.”
But even some panhandlers in the New York Post story said they think Bratton is right.
“If you stop giving them money and help them with those other things, like blankets, clothing and food, they would definitely leave because they would know they couldn’t get the money to get high or drunk,” said Shaunyece Darling, 22, who panhandles with her boyfriend, dog and three cats.
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