Season of giving: Is panhandling, vagrancy, destroying the Downtown Mall?

The success of the Downtown Mall is a miracle in many ways. After it was completed in 1976, initially eliminating five blocks of Charlottesville's Main Street to revitalize the downtown area, it did nothing of the sort, sputtering along for 20 years, a largely desolate place with an odd assortment of stores, and a few bar/restaurants that served a budding underground music and art scene largely ignored by the general public. UVA students, by and large, didn't go near the place. 

Then, as the 1990s began, something started to happen. Maybe it was the birth of one of the country's biggest rock bands on those bricks and in those bars, and the cool that band brought to the place. Maybe it was the emergence of a certain weekly newspaper that often chronicled life on the Mall. Maybe it was the risk someone took to build a movie theater and an ice rink. Maybe it was more incremental, as small business after small business took a risk and began setting up shop on the Mall.

In the last several months, President Barrack Obama, the Dalai Lama, and Bruce Springsteen have visited the Downtown Mall, and it is the home of vibrant music venues, a film festival, books and photography, and over 65 restaurants. Over Black Friday weekend, hundreds of people strolled the Mall as street musicians played, carols were sung, and cash registers rang along with the Salavation Army bell.

One nearby neighborhood group, however, believes that the "Downtown Mall is in trouble," a victim of its own success, attracting many visitors, yes, but also attracting a "troublesome" population group.

The Report
Earlier this year, representatives of the North Downtown Neighborhood Association completed a 36-page report, based on several surveys, which concludes that homeless panhandlers and "groups of idlers" have "seriously deteriorated" the quality of public life at a "important and vibrant public meeting place." The report recommends new ordinances to prohibit sitting and lying down on the Mall, obscene language, and displaying homemade cardboard signs.

During a November 20 City Council meeting, passionate advocates for the homeless denounced such proposals, and once again the sensitive issue of what to do about the perceived increase in panhandling on the Mall has come to the forefront.

Previously, battles have been fought over the removal by City Officials of some of the benches on the Mall to curb “behavior problems" as well as recent ordinances to restrict aggressive panhandling, which some call unconstitutional.

But is there really a problem?

In their most recent annual report, the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH), which operates The Haven just off the Downtown Mall, gives a good snapshot of the extent of our homeless problem. According to data collected for 2011 from around Central Virginia, 398 adults and 19 children in the region have sought services, and 205 adults and 18 children used emergency shelters. Of those, 35 percent reported being chronically homeless, and 27 percent suffered from some kind of mental illness. Surprisingly, only 11 percent said panhandling was their source of financial support for the previous 30 days, while 60 percent said it was food stamps and 22 percent said it was a full-time job.

In addition, 52 percent of those homeless who have sought services are African American, and 61 percent are male. Their biggest challenges? 56 percent said it's not being able to find housing; 48 percent said not being able to find work; 32 percent said dealing with a separation or divorce.  And education? Thirty-nine percent have a high school diploma/GED; 25 percent have some college.

The Downtown Mall report, of course, has a narrower focus. The conclusions by the five-person North Downtown neighborhood committee were reached after 2,300 people responded to a survey that was inserted in gas and water bills sent out in May and April of this year. The survey found that 430 respondents had decreased their trips to the Mall, and that 48 percent reported feeling "unsafe and uncomfortable" on the Mall, with 27 percent mentioning the increased presence of panhandling and the homeless.

"I have definitely seen a decline in the Downtown Mall over the last few years," says Nelson County resident Dawn Cook. "I personally do not feel safe walking after dark by myself to my car."

That was the opinion of quite a few survey respondents. However, people seem to have wildly different perspectives.

"I would have to disagree," says Amanda Welch, who operates a hand-crafted soap booth at the City Market. "We moved to the area in 1988, when the Mall was a desolate place. Now it is vibrant and always full of people. I never feel intimidated by anyone on the Mall and I go all times of the day and night."

Indeed, a British exchange student at UVA we spoke to on the Mall didn't seem to understand what the problem was. A resident of Oxford, which has a population around 165,000, Josceline Edwards says she grew up seeing homeless people on the street.

"So that's really nothing to me. Students love the free bus down here," she says, "And I never feel unsafe."

One observation Edwards has, regarding the the way Americans interact with one another compared to Brits, might be worth noting.

"In England, people are very reserved, and they guard fiercely their private space in public," she says. "But Americans sometimes get right in your face. I think the two countries could learn something from each other in this regard, in terms of finding a proper balance for public interaction."

What's more, Welch says she considers parking a bigger deterrent to going to the Mall. Indeed, the neighborhood survey revealed that 43 percent of those surveyed cited parking problems as the reason they stayed away from the Mall, compared to 27 percent who said that panhandling and the homeless kept them away.

"But there is nothing that discourages me from going to get coffee, go to the movies, shop, enjoy the film festival, go out late to hear music at the Pavilion, Paramount, Jefferson, or any of the smaller venues," says Welch. "We should appreciate what a great place it is." 

Some, however, think that daily enjoyment of the Mall is becoming more difficult.

"I work on the mall and feel I can't even take a walk at lunch without having a pan-handler try and hit me up for a few bucks every single day," says Mark Sargent, a network engineer for the city of Charlottesville. "There are many occasions that I have witnessed several screaming profanities at each other without care or concern for the fact that there are others around."

However, Travis Lively, an employee at Monticello, says he finds the downtown report "ridiculous and pretentious."

"If you don't like living in the downtown of a city, move." he says. "If you don't like panhandlers, don't give them money. If you don't like people trespassing on your property, call the police."

Another survey done by the downtown group, an online one on the city's website, asked patrons of the Mall to characterize their recent experiences. According to the survey, which drew 312 responses, 86 percent had an "unfavorable view" of the Mall.

Finally, a survey of 43 members of the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville concluded that 42 percent of the members worried that panhandling and the homeless would adversely effect the future health of the Mall. In addition, 40 percent cited personal safety concerns, and 33 percent reported that business had decreased in the last two years. Only 3 percent, the survey concluded, felt that the decline in business was caused by the poor economy alone.

As previously mentioned, the report calls for new ordinances that prohibit sitting and lying down on the Mall, obscene language, and displaying homemade cardboard signs, plus an increased police presence on the Mall and the installation of surveillance cameras.

"I don't support all of the report's recommendations," says City Councilor Dave Norris, a long-time advocate for the homeless, "but I do think this is a necessary conversation for us to have. People in our community have been subjected to threatening or harassing behavior Downtown, and in order to keep the Downtown Mall a vital economic and cultural hub, the City has to take steps to promote safety - without trampling on people's basic civil liberties."

The neighborhood group, however, wants action from City Council.

"The situation calls for immediate action to sustain, improve, and protect our treasured asset," the report concludes.

That got the attention of John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a non-profit legal organization that defends constitutional rights, who contacted City Manager Maurice Jones on November 2, saying he was "deeply disturbed" by the report.

"This report calling for city officials to ostracize the homeless in favor of commercial and aesthetic interests is a sad reflection on Charlottesville,” said Whitehead in a statement later that day, “Homelessness is a tragic problem in this country, and not one that will be resolved by hiding it away or criminalizing those who already struggle to get by. Frankly, the last thing this city or any other needs is more laws.”

The North Downtown Neighborhood association, after the public fall-out over the report, fired back with a recent press release.

"The report is not about disenfranchising a segment of our community; rather, it is about investigating residents’ complaints and attempting to balance the needs and rights of all within this community," the November 28 press release stated. "Many of the services provided to the homeless population take place in the North Downtown neighborhood, and many of its residents participate in serving this population as volunteers with the Haven, PACEM and the downtown church soup kitchens."

A Day on the Mall
Lost sometimes in the debate about the increase in panhandling on the Mall are the perspectives of the panhandlers themselves. Who are these people? Some, indeed, are bad characters who we might be wise to approach with caution. Reporters included.

For example, back in June the Newsplex ran a story about the five benches on Central Place that were removed by City Officials to curb problem behavior. A homeless man interviewed in the story, one Joe Bolasky, was quoted sympathetically as an opponent of the move, saying it was really an "attack" on the homeless.

Indeed, there were many advocates for the homeless who agreed with that position. One homeless man we spoke to said the draconian move not only affected the homeless, but also anyone else looking for a public place to sit, particularly the elderly.

However, after inspecting Bolasky's court records, the Hook learned that he was a convicted sex offender who had been charged with "indecent liberties with child by custodian."

On any given day, the sidewalk in front of the The Haven on Market Street, a shelter for the homeless, can be the site of fist fights, shouting matches, lovers quarrels, drunkenness, and police visits. Oftentimes, this kind of behavior leaks out on to the Mall proper, where certain panhandlers will pester cafe patrons, or be abusive if they aren't given money. In certain areas of the Mall, people can be seen camping out on the bricks with blankets and  homemade signs asking for money, with a cute dog on a leash beside them.

Make no mistake, the homeless in our midst can be a troublesome bunch. But that's not the whole story.
On a bright November day recently, cold in the shadows created by the buildings on the Downtown Mall, but warm where the sun shone down on the side streets, street musicians and panhandlers are positioned up and down the Mall. A man wrapped in blankets sits in front of the Jefferson Theater with his dog, several people mill about the Second Street entrance to Central Place, and another man with a dog on a leash stands in front of the Paramount Theater.

Robert Whiteowl, who plays his flute sometimes at the entrance to First Street, is quick to remind a reporter that street musicians should not be lumped in with panhandlers, but they often are in the media and in discussions about the panhandling problem.

"The biggest problem down here is panhandling," says Whiteowl, who has been playing on the Mall for a decade. "This is how us street musicians make a living, and panhandling isn't good for business. I'm not sure how you fix it. But the fact is that most people who panhandle down here aren't even homeless."

Whiteowl mentions a black man in a wheelchair who he says isn't homeless. Indeed, when we run into Robert Turner, an African American panhandler who positions himself next to the hot dog cart beside Bank of America, we learn he has a small apartment on Ridge Street.

As luck would have it, Turner, an elderly man with his legs cut off at the knees, accepted a five-dollar bill from a man passing by as we were speaking to him.  

"It's not about the money all the time," the man says. "John picks me up sometimes when I feel down, and so when I have a little extra I'm happy to give it to him."

As one Mall patron, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out, the City's main employer, the University of Virginia, has one of the biggest "panhandling" operations around, though it's called "development," holding out its hand for millions of donations each year.

Sure, the money might go to good causes (though some might disagree on that), the patron says, "but isn't giving five-bucks to a homeless person on a cold winter day as good a donation as any?"

Of course, that may seem like an outrageous comparison to some people, but is it really?

Turner isn't homeless, but he has no other way than panhandling to make money, which he has been doing seven days a week for the last four years.

"I think the Downtown Mall is a safe and friendly place," says Turner, " as long as I don't bother anyone, and no one bothers me."

Like our larger society, however, another panhandler thinks that ordinances and policies designed to make it harder for a class of people to exist, in reaction to the bad behavior of a few, simply isn't fair.

"Plenty of people who aren't homeless get drunk and loud and obnoxious at places on the Downtown Mall," says panhandler Marco Brown, "but that doesn't mean you create an ordinance that makes it harder for everyone to go to bars and restaurants."

Brown, who has a vision disability and visits The Haven, has cornered a spot in front of the Mall-side elevator in the Market Street Parking garage, where he sits on the bricks leaning against one of the big black flower pots. "How are you today, Sir," or "ma'am" if a lady walks by, he always says to passers-by, holding the cardboard sign he's made asking for money against his chest.

"I do agree there is a problem associated with panhandling," says Brown, "but not all panhandlers are the same."

"Sitting out in public with a sign asking for money is a 'cry for help,'" says Brown, "But I try not to let the way I feel affect how I treat people."

"I think the sense of community may be eroded," says Matt Farrell, who began going to the Mall back in the late 1980s, "but as much on the part of citizens as on the part of those being called vagrants."

As an experiment twice, once at noon and once at midnight, Farrell did one loop of the Mall each, offering a cheerful greeting to every person he passed. At noon, twelve out of fifty-one such greetings were returned. At midnight, seventeen out of twenty-seven.

"This is a major departure from the old and Southern small-town habit of mutual courtesy in mutual acknowledgement that builds over time to a feeling of shared belonging to a community, and significantly, to mutual respect," says Farrell.

For Farrell, the issue is respect and courtesy, for everyone. One idea, he says, might be to write and distribute for free to panhandlers and homeless persons a booklet addressing them plainly and politely and making helpful suggestions for their survival, hygiene, public behaviors, and suggesting activities they might undertake or acts they might perform to help them be better received in the public space.

"Which would allow them to contribute more to the aesthetic and liveliness of the Mall, and less threatening or distracting in ways perceived as detrimental to others' enjoyment or use of Downtown," he suggests.

Wouldn't that be nice. But is anyone prepared to do that?

"You can't blame the homeless for our reality," says Brown, "we as a society are all to blame. We're out here because we simply don't have the resources."

On cue, in a snapshot of that disparity of resources, a well-known local hedge fund manager strolls by, someone who manages $1.3 billion dollars for other people. 

"We don't want anyone to make this easy for us," says Brown, talking about more proposed ordinances on panhandling, "we just want it to be fair."



Destroying the mall? Nah. But no more annoying than the north face jacketed clones that have also invaded the mall.

Although I don't particularly like seeing them every 50 ft and I do think that the panhandlers drive away buisness I can say that I have never been bothered by anybody or felt unsafe while on the downtown mall in the three years that I have lived here.

However the large group of "unique" individuals that gather around the corner where the unbuilt hotel is can be particularly annoying and often times heard cursing back and forth across the mall. I usually just give them a wide berth.

Did the Dalai Lama get to see where Dave Matthews worked?

Don't legislate people, legislate behavior. Fighting is already illegal. So is public drinking and intoxication.
Not all street people are homeless, not all are insane or addicted. Not all insane people or addicts or homeless are on the street. Stop lumping people together to conform to your prejudices and stereotypes.

All I want is a grilled cheese sandwich and a chocolate milkshake from Timberlakes.

Is the problem panhandlers or youth that are bored and sometime looking for trouble?

Here's the EZ way: VOTE WITH YOUR MONEY.

If the downtown panhandlers and screaming drunks bother you, take your money to Stonefield or Barracks Road. They are both well mannered places with lots of good shopping and many restaurants. People who misbehave are immediately removed and banned from returning.

You can always come downtown for the occasional concert or Live Arts play. Or to pay your utility bill.

Then, downtown can stay as it is and be a wonderful place to enjoy all flavors of humanity.

There's another bonus to this approach, plenty of convenient parking to complement the lack of crime & bad behavior!

I just want more break dancers.

@Really? "But no more annoying than the north face jacketed clones that have also invaded the mall."

At least those people are actually spending money and helping small businesses instead of trying to take money.

Bottomline is, panhandlers make most people (esp. women) feel uncomfortable and hurt business on the mall and cause negative sentiment about the mall.

I have 2 small children and I have no issues bringing them down to the mail and letting them run around. There may be a larger population of homeless on the mall, but that is just a part of living in this world.

If the downtown business owners are worried about losing sales, why don't they actually try to sell something that the average person would actually want and lower their prices. I don't shop on the mall because there is nothing there that interests me and if I do find something, the price is outrageous.

touché: substitute "Elliewood Avenue" for "The Haven on Market Street, a shelter for the homeless" and reread:

"On any given day, the sidewalk in front of the The Haven on Market Street, a shelter for the homeless, can be the site of fist fights, shouting matches, lovers quarrels, drunkenness, and police visits.

I'm sure the people that are okay with panhandling would welcome these people to sit on the front door step to there home or apartment all hours of the day or night.

I can't stand on the downtown mall and ask you for money, put it in my pocket and then give you a hot dog without tons of paperwork and permit fees and taxes but I can stand on the mall and ask for money to put in that same pocket without a care in the world.

The downtown mall is an area for commerce, more specifically upscale commerce. It's a mistake to try and facillitate equal access for people who are there only to panhandle or be disruptive. A solid first step would be to relocate the homeless shelter. Having it right next to the downtown mall is such an obvious bad idea. The next step would be an increased police presence especially in the areas where these people congregate. It's not utopia, get the riff raff out or I'll spend my money somewhere else. By the way this isn't the first time the downtown mall has had serious problems. As I recall several years ago the issue was the little emo punks who would sit around down there...that is until one of them murdered someone. Like I said, send them on their way.

my opinion is that people who have a problem with poverty, homelessness and /or panhandlers should not leave their houses. That is the only surefire way to not encounter one of these phenomenons.

To try to legislate these problems out of your view is childish to the extreme. To whine for greater law enforcement against those that are practicing their right to free speech is un-American.

You don't have to give money to the homeless and you don't have to come to the downtown mall. Please stay in your houses and watch your television. You are making the world a better place by not interacting with it.

This is basic rights 101: Barracks is private property; Downtown Mall is not, therefore, belongs to everyone, like it or not.

Outlawing signs? - only an idiot wouldn't see a downside to that when they want to protest, or support something or cheer on a parade, or whatever. For the record I hate getting hit up for change by strangers, but panhandling is free speech (which I love dearly) and as long as they don't infringe on your rights or break laws while doing so, then I see no way to stop it and keep Dtown the way it is.

1) The city and the DBA need to work with the panhandlers (someone told me they are more organized than people think) to quickly curb any behaviors that are illegal. Lock up the bad eggs. Homeless doesn't mean stupid - they don't want to ruin a good thing. 2) Is it possible to bring back the benches, but install them in areas "courtesy of" the Downtown Bus Assc? Laws that relate to behavior in private space can be enforced quite differently than the limited reasons a cop has to remove someone from the public sphere.

I find myself conflicted in all this. The comment about UVA, or any charity, asking for donations, versus panhandling, is valid. After all, ultimately, we are subsidizing the agenda and personal livelihood of someone else. UVA is a real instition that provides a critical service and mission for the borad community, versus say, habititat for humanity. Sorry habitat.

In another point, I do have problems with just abanding those who find themsleves unemployed through no fault of their own. I also think the employment market is very narrow sited in how they treat people who have been unemployed for a while, and now seek to return to the workforce.

That being said, I feel like it's pretty obvious which panhandlers are truly disabled mentally or physically, and which just want to sit aorund and be beggars. Yesterday was a classic where I saw a young man witha very healthy puppy begging for money for his dog. He sat around smoking, with his little sign, next to the paramount, complaining about being homeless. I can think of several people who had lots of odd jobs to do for 10/hr cash, that could have kept that young man fully employed if he would only get out and look for it. Sitting on the mall smoking isn't looking for work. I had to avoid the Paramount because I wanted to put my foot up his butt and I knew I would have said something.

The city makes it too easy for slackers like that, supporting all the homeless shelters in the DT area.

@Caesonia: Right on. And on the other hand there's Robert Turner of the photo, whom I observed going into Christian's to get a slice of pizza. He was very patient and dignified; that's not a guy who's passing up leaf raking jobs. I'd gladly buy him a meal any day of the week. But the able bodied, reasonably sound-minded greaseballs shouldn't receive a penny from anyone.

I think the real acid test is whether any of these people would not be fed and sheltered via agency help. Without being certain, I'd surmise that panhandling is 95% pursuit of disposable income (beer & smokes). So if that's true, not even the kind-hearted should give to people personally. Donate to a support charity instead. These human seagulls are there because someone's tossing them scraps.

And put the haven out on Avon or 5th St, or better yet next to a trash sorting center and require work from the able bodied. And maybe check to see that they're local needy rather than migratory opportunists. (It's not as Dickensian as it sounds...)

"I had to avoid the Paramount because I wanted to put my foot up his butt and I knew I would have said something. "

Funny. It would seem that you went out of your way to avoid this person. Thus you never spoke to him. Thus you know exactly SQUAT about his situation.

I don't know anything about it either. So I'm not going to speculate. But you have apparently done a ton of speculation - accused, tried and convicted in your mind with nothing but a glance. On what basis? None.

I like Matt Farrell's idea.

No one complained about the homeless people when the BUSHIES were in office! This is RACISM!

1) Require panhandlers to get a permit.
2) The rest of the people behaving badly should be escorted off the Mall.
The Mall is for work or commerce, not for loitering and fighting, or harassing.

The Mall is a public space, paid for by taxpayer dollars, just ask anyone who complained about money when the Mall was being rebricked.

That being the said, the Supreme Court in a 1980 free speech case held that free speech comes from many directions. Someone panhandling asking for a money donation was the same as any other organization soliciting money. It may make you angry or uncomfortable depending on which form of communication is chosen but it is free speech and protected under the first amendment.

I would rather be asked for money than have some snot nosed lil north face jacketed clone get in my way cause he's too cool to yield. Bottom line annoying people are annoying. It does not annoy me if someone ask me for money. It bothers me when people think that they can be a jerk and think they are cool like the north face jacketed frat jerks that like to get drunk downtown. If you are not comfortable telling someone NO for anything for any reason maybe you should lock your doors and stay inside work on getting some confidence. It is very easy can I have some money? No, thanks. Negative sentiment on the mall? I think you are the one who is being negative. I have been all over the world. Bums are everywhere they go where the money is because they don't have any. Grow up. Get some tolerance. And if somebody asks you to do something you are not comfortable with just put on your big boy or girl pants and say: No, thanks. You can do it!

"I don't know anything about it either. So I'm not going to speculate. But you have apparently done a ton of speculation - accused, tried and convicted in your mind with nothing but a glance. On what basis? None."

I disagree entirely. I don't have to know a dog's or horse's story to not have a good guess about their health, attitude, or basic temper. I can see it in their coat, their eyes, and general demeanor. You don't put up a sign asking for money to help your dog have a good Xmas because you were homeless. Weak. He should of said...I need a job, a simple job I can do.

I can't tell you how many times I have worked with people down on their luck to get burned. Not necessarily bad people, or mean people, but 95% of the time it falls apart because it becomes about their drama, and their unwillingness to come to terms with a few things in their life, like alcohol. if their reading is poor, I try and teach them. If they don't understand legal documents, I take the time to help interpret them. But ultimately that's never really the issue, because of the 5% that succeed, it's been about deciding to get beyond what else is controlling their life.

I see the same stuff all over the world too, because I get to go all over the world. It isn't necessarily an American thing.

I am supportive of free higher education, free lunches, and national health care systems, but I am no fool and my patience does get tried, after I am approached one too many times by people who look at hale and healthy as I am. I offer to buy them lunch...oh no, they don't want that. Sure.

That should read "I got to go all over the world."

@Sue you might want to read up on Cville City Code before making constitutional law pronouncements. There are a number of limits on free speech that apply there:

I have lived in New York and Las Vegas, where real homeless problems exist...but, I have never lived in a community where the City Council actually creates an environment welcoming the homeless. When I moved here in 2006, I was a frequent visitor to the Downtown Mall and loved it...I would spend many hours there. These visits became less and less as the problems of gangs and homelessness increased. Now, I never go downtown for anything. This is a small southern community, but the Downtown Mall no longer reflects that southern hospitality!!! A Homeless Outreach Director at a salary of $70,000 a year is the most rediculous thing I have ever heard coming out of Councilpersons mouths. Increased Police presence and cameras are the only answer, to make the Mall safe and secure for all persons that wish to visit there. I used to go to Toronto, Canada ever chance I got...they had the same homeless problems any other major city has. They addressed the problem by offering the homeless jobs on a per diem basis, cleaning the city and as a result Toronto is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Why can't Charlottesville come up with a similar program by offering the homeless daily employment in the downtown area. Not only with the panhandling be limited, but the homeless now have a real source of income and the City benefits with it's beautiful and clean parks and a very clean Downtown Mall. It is a win, win situation!!!!! For those who refuse the offer of employment...a bus ticket to the city of their chose..

No it is not an American thing. It is a I want to eat tonight thing and yes it is the same all over the world.

Actually have to give the hook a lil props for telling some of the story behind the faces we all see downtown. Everyone has a story, a story that deserves to be heard. You can qoute me on that.

Old Timer, I didn't say that people are not free to speculate on no sound basis. People do it all of the time. I said to go ahead and do it if it makes you feel better. And apparently you do. Your own personal experiences and "gut feelings" about how dogs and horses and people look are not a sound basis for passing judgment. Caesonia figured the person on the mall was just a completely able but lazy person looking to get over on people. Maybe this person was. Maybe not. S/he doesn't know a thing about it. Nor do you.

I agree with "really".. we DO need to hear these stories so we can find out how many of these people are truly in need and how so many of them are just victims of thier own poor choices and have no feeling of any responsibility to not be a burden to the the rest of us.

Of course starting in 2014 all of these people will be elgible for free healthcare through medicaid and will be able to just lie to doctors for imaginary back pain and trade the vicodin for booze or pot as they slowly drain the treasury so we may get a reprieve.

Mark 10:21-22 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

As long as you have people who desire to be rich, to be affluent, you will always have the poor, for the rich need the poor otherwise who would do the work...

Indeed, the neighborhood survey revealed that 43 percent of those surveyed cited parking problems as the reason they stayed away from the Mall, compared to 27 percent who said that panhandling and the homeless kept them away.

This is highly inaccurate. On page 21 of the survey, there is a table titled "Reasons for Not Coming to the Mall as Often" that says that 27% of respondents do not come as often because of "Panhandling and the Homeless." In small type, below that, it's explained that "[t]he percents are based on the 312 respondents who had reduced their trips due to conditions on the Mall." With 2,306 respondents, we can see that it's not 27% of people who stay away from the Downtown Mall because of panhandling, but 27% of 14%, or...3.8% of people.

We're to be concerned because 86% of people have not reduced their trips to the Downtown Mall, and 3.8% of people don't feel safe because of panhandlers downtown? Put differently, 96.2% of people are not concerned about panhandlers on the Downtown Mall, at least with regard to their own safety. How that's "destroying the Mall," I cannot imagine.

Love one another, love one another, love one another!

Hey it's all glowing except for the bit about "sleeping on their porches and in their bushes, and they were then compelled to clean up feces, vomit and urine".

Waldo thanks for providing the link and the invitation to data-driven argument. And you are guilty of cherry-picking facts from the report, ie, highly inaccurate. It's not merely 27% of the "14 percent (312) of the respondents had decreased their trips to the Mall due to conditions on the Mall," but rather "48 percent mentioned feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, and 27 percent mentioned panhandling and the homeless". If the present discussion is limited strictly to panhandling OK, but isn't it fair to say that it's about that and the related ASBO's that attend?

And remember these figures you cite come from the Area Residents survey only --from a survey "sent out with the April-May gas and water bills". Economically this isn't just a temperature-taking of the let's-buy-dinner-and-doilies crowd, but those who have a real stake in Downtown Cville and vice versa. They don't just shop, they pay real estate taxes. When a combined 75% of 312 of them cite hostile climate and panhandling as reasons not go downtown it's significant; even if it's merely their perception rather than quantified events. If I were a city planner or development officer I'd consider it a canary fainting in the coalmine.

The companion Patrons survey found: "Eighty-six percent of them had unfavorable views of the Mall. Of these, 34 percent mentioned feeling unsafe or uncomfortable and 35 percent mentioned panhandling and the homeless". Among the downtown business owners who responded to the DBAC Survey "fourteen (33 percent) reported that business had decreased in the past two years".

That you personally can't imagine that this is destroying the mall has nothing to do with the validity of the findings. Sampling and statistical reporting relies upon the quality of the sampling, modeling, and analysis (and this survey may be well done or deeply flawed). Brute proportions of an entire population aren't used to determine political polls, drug effectiveness or NIH growth norms, so reductively pointing to the counts themselves is badly informed.

Nice work Waldo. This is how the privileged keep their privilege by lying with statistics that convince data-driven city councilors to protect the interests of the privileged.

Homelessness and panahndling are the cost of doing business in a hyper capitalist world where the disparities between the rich and poor are obscene. Our area is one of the worst when it comes to these disparities which are getting worse so the problems on the Mall are just a reflection of this. The social policies that accompany these economic policies require eviscerating tand disappearing the poor. It wasn't that long ago we read a story about minorities and the DT Mall, keeping them out too.

Is the City Manager like the chief of police of Mailbu in the Big Lebowski?

I find this City Council devoid of compassion and understanding for any other people but their own: white middle and upper class people. They protect the interests of the chamber and their cronies. Harrass the homeless, the poor and do whatever the Chamber tells them to do when it comes to human rights. Apparently protecting human rights is bad for business and thats what matters to the City Manager and the Cty Council. Remember this at election time.

What kind of a town are we becoming? Hey let's ask the City to make a documentary about the problem.

Could the city lease the entire outdoor space that s the mall, to a private, for profit real estate company to manage, thereby making it "private property" so that different rules can be applied? They do it for the beer fests at the east end. No panhandling at the pavilion, just good old commerce.

I'd think much of the problem would be addressed if the hotel were ever finished. Then there would be a much higher stake in keeping the center of the mall cleared of anyone who causes disturbance and keeps visitors away. It's one thing for all the small shops/restaurants to be bothered/affected by the loitering, but a large "high-end" hotel would be a whole new level of economic reasoning and clout for making it feel more safe.

There is no denying there is a range of regulars down there loitering/panhandling and I think it is fair to say the most "uncomfortable" part of the mall is right at the fountain/"hotel" stretch.

"Nice work Waldo. This is how the privileged keep their privilege by lying with statistics that convince data-driven city councilors to protect the interests of the privileged. "

Actually taking advantage of public education, putting it to good use, and spending the rewards of that dedication to provide for yourself and a family does not make you "priieged" it makes you a person who is willing to accept the responsibility to be an active member of society instead of a leech. That in itself means that your views have a right to be heard and considered just as much as a homeless bum who rolled in from ot of town for the easy marks and coddled treatment. The city can deal with this problem now or when the vacancy rate hits the tipping point of no return.

The rules are not unreasonable. the panhandlers are collecting money , paying zero taxes and many of them have youth and strength on their side to do some work and earn some money.

The city should sell tokens to hand out that the bums could use for food at the food bank or at goodwill.

Move the Haven, put more police on the mall. Whether anyone likes it or not, as the areas surrounding Charlottesville develop over the next 10 to 20 years, there will be an increasing number of alternatives to the Mall for niche shopping and dining. Fewer shoppers will spend money on the Mall, shops will close and relocate to the newer areas less accessible to the homeless and rambunctious youngsters, and property values on the Mall will fall. Ultimately the city will reap less and less taxes from activity on the Mall.

Move the Haven, put more police on the mall.

You know JS, I did say I was conflicted. You conveniently ignore that. But I also wasn't born yesterday and spent a good bit of my life working in an industry that tons of people with broken bits working because it's the only place they can. The back side of tracks in horse racing is chock full. You've got those looking to be the next star, stopping on because they want a simple lifestyle, some hiding, and some looking to finish their life where their habit doesn't hurt anyone and requirements are cot and hot showers. I have bought a lot of coffee and breakfast for the last type, because they were honest about their problem, and took care of me and others in their way. And they worked. I also worried about them and the simple life style and the hiding, because our country doesn't seem to think poeple like that, who do contribute, are worth more than the saw dust they shovel, for the basic things, like dentistry, and physicals.

The thing is, you get to know a lot about people in all colours and shapes and sizes in that environment. You find everyone has a story just as that young man I am sure does. Covers don't fool you easily. Over time, yes, you learn enough to make judgements on a legitimate basis. They aren't always right, but they are going to be in the ball park.

Could I be totally wrong? Possibly. But I am not exactly what you would think is in his story that would leave him limited to sitting on the mall asking money for his dog at xmas and incapable of anything else.

I think his name is John Turner, not Robert Turner.

Whats all the beef with North Face jackets for?

as someone who has moved from town to town a lot
i can certainly sympathize with many of the comments.

as a doctor and homeowner i do understand the issue
from both perspectives.

Mr. Lively's comments are troubling .
i hope his breezy comments about the nature of trespassing;
and property rights don't interfere with his position at Monticello.

i would hope he would be at the ready to deal with the issues he so easily
dismisses when they appear at the gates of Mr.Jefferson's home.

i think we will not be surprised that Mr.Lively will find out like the song says
....."you have to serve somebody..."

This is insane.

Downtown is a great place to be, I can't believe these well-to-do white idiots are getting their disintegrated ovaries in such a twist over a few homeless people and panhandlers. Try living or working near Harvard Square in Cambridge. Y'all would have a pulmonary for christ's sake.

Here's a tip: learn to say "NO" and "NO" and every once in awhile give the polite panhandlers a fiver for good karma and avoid all the lazy redneck addicts or say no to them. BAM. That's it.

On another note, go to Stonefield and "hang out"? No thanks. I don't need to be reminded of that prison-looking nasty theater they have and empty shops with unbearably tasteless architecture and design. BLECH. Go to Trader Joe's and then book it as fast as you can back downtown.

I swear if these pasty ancient white people had it their way, they'd be living in a bubble in the shape of a cross.

@Absurdity: I can’t believe you assuming, arrogant poseurs are getting your jockeys in such a jam over someone saying there are people on the mall panhandling who make them feel unsafe. Not the ones who accept “NO” for an answer. The ones who follow you and persist in getting money from you. And, why bring race or age into it and act like we are all bigoted? You sound very bitter. For your information, a lot of the ancestors of those rednecks you refer to built this town, while people like Thomas Jefferson just sat back in their mansions and supervised. Not every white person who is able to shop on the downtown mall is "well-to-do," nor are they uneducated. Your assumption is wrong. You think it is so simple to get panhandlers to accept "no". Maybe they accept that from a male. But some don’t accept "no" from a woman. Get over yourself, the Hook asked a question and people answered it honestly. And, for the record, I wouldn't go into Stonefield if paid to do it, so there goes another of your putrid assumptions.

A north face jacket is like a little badge that says I am sheriff douchbag. If the kids nowadays knew how to think for themselves they wouldnt all have to wear the same jackets. All the lil wahooers wear the same things becuase they were not taught to think for themselves and make thier own choices.. They are taught to copy and imitate what their peers do and wear this makes them lil zombies. The north face jacketed clones should really? take a hard look at the lovely selection of outer wear available and make choices based on what they like and not what Johnny Football wears.

"Get some tolerance."


"Whats all the beef with North Face jackets for?"

Apparently, it's an allegory for being more tolerant.

"my opinion is that people who have a problem with poverty, homelessness and /or panhandlers should not leave their houses. That is the only surefire way to not encounter one of these phenomenons."

I don't think that's the issue people are having so much as the knowledge that most of the people sitting around on their duffs on the Mall with a cardboard sign are just lazy moochers. Some aren't even homeless, as the article even says, and a lot are just trying to take advantage of people's good will.

Me, I've given to the dude with no legs (I think I've seen two actually, one black, one white) and others I've seen who also are clearly physically disabled in some way. Even if they're not homeless life is probably tough for them I imagine and it's good to help out people like that. But the able bodied panhandlers who look to be in their 20s and 30s? No. Nothing from me. I also like the street musicians and some are really talented. If they're willing to put on a show or perform music for money then there shouldn't be a problem with that either. They actually greatly contribute to the flavor of the mall.

I think the compromise is to get rid of the lazy, able bodied moochers.

Though really, how do you enact such a policy, you know?

I read this article today and was deeply troubled. I love Cville - hometown - and have gotten involved with homeless here where I live now in RVA. To see my beloved sweet Cville start to cloud their opinions with the high and mighty, that might have voted the place the best place to live in America in some magazine, is troubling.
1. It's Christmas - and to publish and article that might even remotely insinuate that homelessness or begging is 'unappealing', is wrong.
2. Find a Bible verse - many - on how we should care for those less fortunate.
3. One apple might have spoiled the bushel but 90% of those people want to be you.
4. Stop, ask them their story - give them a warm coffee, they are veterans, dealing with addictions, mental issues, deserted by family, over-debted on homes lost, should I continue?
5. Read the book - 'When Helping Hurts'
6. No one says when they're a child - 'When I grow up I want to be a beggar'
7. The folks in Key West, FLA say it the best: 'One Big Human Family'
8. God made us for relationships - he didn't say relationships with only those who appeal to you.
9. Donate or volunteer for those organizations that help the folks that have to panhandle, more resources for those who need it = less needy. Don't look to Washington, it starts at home.
10. It could have been you...

Please ignore the North Downtown Residents Association. I have lived there for a number of years now, and it is not representative of the people in the neighborhood. When they publish the results of a self-selected survey let's not read more into it than is necessary.


They all have stories, the question is which ones are true. I think the article about who panhandlers really are, versus the actual homeless, is very telling. This isn't about Vets and people who lost their homes in the crash, or being abandoned by family. It's like the homeless guy that police officer bought boots for. Hos family said he was always welcome, and a few days later the boots were gone. Who wants to bet they were traded for cigarettes and alcohol?

The musicians downtown should be required to get a busker's license. When I lived in NYC if you wanted to be a street musician/artist and accept $ for playing there you were required to purchase a license.
I am always willing to help out those less fortunate than myself... just don't spit/curse at me when I have no cash to give you and offer to buy you lunch instead. Makes me think you only want my $ for booze or drugs. *sigh*

Waldo thanks for providing the link and the invitation to data-driven argument. And you are guilty of cherry-picking facts from the report, ie, highly inaccurate. It's not merely 27% of the "14 percent (312) of the respondents had decreased their trips to the Mall due to conditions on the Mall," but rather "48 percent mentioned feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, and 27 percent mentioned panhandling and the homeless".

You are incorrect. If you will refer to page 21 of the report, you will see that beneath the table of percentages that includes the 48% figure, it clearly states that "The percents are based on the 312 respondents who had reduced their trips due to conditions on the Mall."

why should we let the bad behavior of a few ruin our sense of safety and the enjoyment of experiences of the downtown mall? why are the few angry responders here so insensitive to the business community who have invested thousands of dollars to create business' which in turn employ others and provide income for their their families as well as their employees families? why are business owners categorized as wealthy white merchants akin to the KKK? continued panhandling and bad behavior that scare away customers will obviously negatively affect business and in turn decrease tax income to the city as well as promote the general decay of the mall....who really wants that? fact i'm sure the panhandlers don't want that either.....they might have to leave the mall for greener pastures!

Everybody knows North Face is out right now. Mountain Hardware or Patagonia is where its at.