BURLINGTON – Starting next week, all panhandlers in Chittenden County will be accepting debit cards as a payment method when asking strangers for spare change. This move comes after years of industry stagnation and insiders say they hope it will be the biggest improvement in begging since the sign.
Panhandlers have repeatedly reported “I don’t have any change on me” as the excuse most often given during a panhandling session. “I’m sorry, I don’t carry cash anymore,” is also rising quickly these days as we move into a digital-only world of finance and commerce. Being able to take payments electronically is vital to to success of any endeavor in today’s world, and many are hopeful that this could be the boost panhandlers need.
“I’m always asking people for money, and they never have any,” said one man identified only as Frank. “They say they want to help, but there are so many barriers. For instance I know they want social programs to help people like me get back on their feet, but then suddenly they come up against the fact that they don’t want to pay taxes, which is a huge barrier. They want to help me and my friends get off the street, ’cause let’s be honest, neither of us want to see me sitting here every day, but when it comes to actually supporting programs and missions that will help, well, I guess there are a lot of barriers. Not sure exactly what they are, but there must be a lot of them. So I figure we can at least break down one barrier for people, and help ’em out when they don’t have cash on ’em.”
Some Chittenden County residents are excited about the plan, but others are unsure about its effectiveness. “I totally want to help people, I do,” said Hugh Jassle of South Burlington, “but I don’t even really carry cards around anymore. I get all my lattes with my phone. I see guys on the street all the time and wish there were something I could do. But I guess I can’t. Maybe when they start taking Apple Pay?”