Posts Tagged ‘panhandling’

Ugly or Needy

Many American cities have faced the quandary of how to deal with panhandlers. (This issue is sometimes confused with the problem of the homeless; some panhandlers are homeless, many are not.) Neighborhood homeowners find their presence an irritant and fear that they depress property values; shop owners suspect that they scare away customers; and tourists who encounter panhandlers in, say, San Francisco’s theater district, swear they won’t come back until the “problem is cleaned up.”

This is not a new problem (although it may have resurged in the last generation or so). This cartoon published in the magazine, Puck, dates from 1879. The character in the left corner, Puck, is complaining to a city official, “If you can’t remove these people from the streets [to the institutions depicted in the background] on the score of Charity, do it for Decency’s sake.”

Puck 1879 LC-USZ62-52594-1

One way that 19th-century Chicago (and other cities) tried to manage the problem was euphemistic. As Adrienne Phelps Coco describes in a recent article, the city passed an “ugly law,” trying to drive unattractive people from the public streets.


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