Like most New Yorkers I know, I regularly give to panhandlers. How much depends on how much change I have in my pocket, but my rule of thumb is a twenty-five-cent minimum.
If West Side Cares, a new food-for-voucher program in my neighborhood has its way, I won’t be doling out quarters any more. Instead, I’ll be passing out twenty-five-cent vouchers that can be redeemed at local stores. The idea comes from a similar program in Berkeley, California, and its aim is to make sure the city’s panhandlers don’t use the money they get for booze or drugs. That’s a reasonable fear, given the times we are living in, but all the same the food-for-voucher program is one I’d like to scrap. I see it as part of a nineties-style toughmindedness that emphasizes the small picture at the expense of the big one....
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