Early every morning a neighbor in this apartment complex in Tucson, Arizona heads out, with a folding chair, a dog and a collection basket. Until sundown he will sit across the street at the entrance to the supermarket parking lot.
Panhandling is his career path. It seems to be a growing one.
A woman who bunks in a recovery half way house in Tucson essentially has the same schedule. But her staging at her spot doesn't include a dog. At 12-step meetings she shares her ambivalence about the way she makes a living. I am tempted to advise her to get a dog and she will probably bring home more revenue.
In a shopping plaza outside Tucson, regularly I am harassed by what's now labeled "aggressive panhandling." It only stops when I wave my smartphone, threatening to call the police.
Before the Counterculture in the 1960s, begging on the street carried a severe stigma. Those who did it was called "bums." Parents framed them as object lessons about what we could evolve into if we didn't obey the rules, ranging from eating fish on Friday to not watching too much television.
Now, panhandling has become a legitimate way of earning a living. Maybe even a good one. As long as those asking for money don't cross that line into aggressive panhandling there doesn't seem any chance of having to reinvent themselves for more marketable types of work.