Tell panhandlers where you’ll stick it

The Asheville Downtown Association held an informal ceremony to announce installation of its long-awaited donation drop boxes — the first tangible evidence of its “Spare Change for Real Change” campaign — on Monday afternoon.

ADA President Dwight Butner and Mayor Terry Bellamy were on hand to kick off the charitable-giving program by dropping a few bucks into the newly installed collection box at the intersection of Haywood and College streets, across from Pritchard Park. The black box sits astride a steel post similar to those used to support parking meters. Posts for the first five collection boxes were installed by the city of Asheville and the boxes were fabricated by a local welder.

“This is a generous city,” Butner remarked. “We want to reduce panhandling but not hurt poor people in the process.” He said that new posters and brochures will be distributed to downtown businesses and charitable organizations on Wednesday, July 11, to help spread the word. Butner explained that his organization had set up a tax-exempt foundation to handle proceeds and would challenge downtown businesses to match all donated funds. He also thanked the city for its help with the project.

Bellamy observed that the project was the result of “a true partnership between the city and local merchants and citizens,” and acknowledged the hard work of the committee that had hatched the plan four years ago. (See “From Handcuffs to Helping Hands,” Jan. 22, 2003, Xpress)

Other boxes are located in Pack Square, at the corner of Lexington Avenue and Walnut Street, in front of the Asheville Civic Center and in front of Barley’s Taproom on Biltmore Avenue.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer


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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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37 thoughts on “Tell panhandlers where you’ll stick it

  1. I eagerly await the first time that one of these collection boxes are ripped from their posts.

    I also propose that the geniuses who came up with this idea hold their breath until the few piggy banks that took them four years to think up actually helps someone and ends panhandling in downtown.

  2. JJameson

    I’m ashamed to say that I spent a minute or two looking at the 25-foot tall oversized fascimile of a donation box with a base with a circumference larger than a trash can, as featured in the above photo.

  3. ONH

    We have been giving to the people who panhandle in Asheville… our tax money. Who pays for the collection boxes, shelters, etc?

  4. Not from here

    So now Asheville wants to promote being a BUM? Bum = homeless, UNEMPLOYED, vagrant,one who has no established residence and wanders idly from place to place without lawful or visible means of support. Great lets just invite the criminals to this town next. Asheville you disgust me.

  5. steven beltram


    the homesless people are talking to me. oooohh. please make them stop!!

    so, my question is, who divides the money in the box up, and who does the beer run?

  6. SH

    I have a problem with this! We will give to the too lazy to work but we will not help a single mom who works two jobs and still does not have money to eat are pay her light bill. Give this money to the people who are at least trying and our disabled vets and our elderly whom cant afford medicine. Not the lazy bums that chose to be this way!!!!!!

  7. Suzy Q

    What’s the problem with this town? Just run the beggars off. These are not people who need help. They are beggars. So treat them like beggars and tell them to leave!

  8. Chris

    Asheville needs to do more. The problem is out of control. I have been a resident here for a while now and still get irritated by the people begging for money downtown. Can’t we clean it up? Can we load up all the begging homeless into a semi-truck and ship them to Greenville??

  9. There is a difference between people who beg because it’s easy and people who are homeless because they are mentally ill or unable to function in modern society. Don’t write off the second group because of the first.

  10. Jen Bowen

    Seconding Shades.

    There are several folks downtown who will just wander up to you and say, “hey man, got some money?”
    Yeah I have money – but I busted my butt for 9 hours today to make this money and you are just a freeloader. Do a job! Provide a service! Be a worthwhile citizen & decent human being and maybe I’ll consider buying you a cup of coffee (or 40oz King Cobra).

    At least the street musicians and other artists are providing a service – they make it much more enjoyable to walk down the street and I will always drop a $2 bill in their cap should I have one on me.

    But there are several folks on the streets that I personally know from years of being downtown and actually taking the TIME to TALK to them who are in trouble. There are a few PTSD vets (god bless american justice) and others who are mentally incapable of holding down a job. They are sick, they are needy, they are destitute, and they are the one’s who true Christians and other caring souls should be looking out for. But these people often smell, talk to themselves and look funny so goodness knows you’ll probably not approach them.

    Many of these homeless will not ask for a dime, but they also don’t want to be badgered either by the Asheville City Police Dept. I have seen on several occasions the APD treating these people in cruel and disgusting manners. Such as kicking one drunk who was passed out on the street, or another time a cop approached a begging vet with one leg and threw his backpack into the street scattering his few articles of belonging everywhere!

    As humans we have the responsibility and duty to have compassion – but I am highly dubious of this programs ability to bring compassion out of people (especially tourists who have the money to burn) or necessarily help the people who really need it the most.
    You are still going to have the lazy con-men asking for money and you are still going to have the sick and destitute wandering the streets.

  11. stevenbeltram

    wait, so am i wrong in thinking we put the homeless people into these boxes?

  12. Suzy Q

    This has to do with begging. It’s not about whether someone is a crazy, alcoholic, PTSD trustifarian or not. It’s about the behavior of begging. We should just run them off and then maybe we can do something about all the folks pissing in the stairwells of the Civic Center’s parking lot.

  13. Travis

    I would like the Mountain Xpress to tell the reader where this money is actually going. I understand that it is charitable giving, and I know the name of the program, but what does it actually do? I feel more comfortable giving money directly to another human being than dropping it some anonymous box.

    Secondly, it shames me to read most of the comments here. Who are you to judge who has swallowed their pride enough to beg on the streets simply because they are “lazy”? Every person that I have met asking for a handout on the streets has a story. A reason. Something has happened to them that would have put me in the same situation if I were in their shoes. Have you actually talked these people before you judge them?

    Jesus didn’t give us the commandment to give to the poor only “if they deserved it”. The commandment was to give to the poor. I remember something in there about not striving for material wealth, as well.

    Be a human. Help your fellow human beings out.

  14. silverman

    the purpose of the box is so that people can still give money without having to interact with an ‘undesirable’ person.

    i would imagine the omney probably goes to some sort of government recognized ‘shelter’ or other kind of halfay house’, ith a good portion going to the re-dtape makers behind the whole scheme in the first place.

    and all of this because people cant handle having to interact with ‘dirty’ people.

    personally, i dont see whats so hard about saying ‘no’ to one of these so-called ‘aggressive panhandlers”

    As opposed to all of the non-aggressive ones out there.

    you know, i just realized these scary, drunken ‘agressive panhandlers’ are our ticket to getting rid of any excess tourist problem in the city. after all, these are the same people who are fleeing Atlanta and Washington and New York, not to mention the entire state of Florida in order to get away from poor people, and other perceived ‘undesirables” all we have to do is release enough homeless people on downtown anytime the tourist level rises above a certain pre-determined level.

    then, maybe our beautiful, friendly, liberal mountain town wont be destroyed quite so fast as all of these folks flee the same problems they caused wherever they came from.

    i say, more crazy, smelly, crack addicted homeless vetnam vets downtown. its the only choice we have!!

  15. Cat

    This last comment…man oh man!
    Ive been working in downtown Asheville for 3 years now. 2 1/2 yrs in Pritchard Park and now on Biltmore Avenue. At my last job I was “chief bum thrower” and you know why? Because these “Unfortunate Souls” come in to local businesses and defecate on the floor(NOT kidding), steal food from other guests plates, panhandle WITHIN the business, and the list goes on. My favorite right now are the early twenty-somethings that are fully equipped to work and they come into my place of business asking for money/service/product and then get angry when I tell them no and to leave and to stop asking within or in front of my business. Sure, everyone has a story. I do too! The difference however is this:
    I am a young woman with the god given skills and talents that I posess to carry myself. I have the ability to learn new skills to increase that carriage and while I do love my fellow human beings I have no responsibility to ensure their shelter/safety/or dinner simply because they are there. I have my own mouth(s) to feed and I am doing more for that deservation than 95% of the “Unfortunate” harassing me everyday and breaking into MY car on more than 2 occassions because I said NO.
    So no, I find the donation box program to be a false sense of hope, at Best, to Downtown Asheville. I find it insulting to those of us who DO work 50+ hours a week and are trying to better our own lives. So let me ask you this, is it better to micro-manage what funds are being given to these people, to make sure theyre eating and sleeping in appropriate manners? Or is it better suited to teach them how to eat and sleep in the confines of such a civilization? And to follow up, how are we paying the people who are counting and divying these donated monies? Just a thought…

  16. steven beltram

    My Favorite Downtown Panhandlers:

    The guy who says, “let me axx you a question; …Gimme A Dollar!!” def. my favorite approach ever.

    The guy with a high-pitched voice from last year called “Little Tennesee” who had the sweet-guy schtick down perfect.

    the “peace, pot, microdot” guy who i think is still around, and has been a downtown fixture for years, who alternates his request for money depending on ho he’s asking. “spare an old hippie (or) Vietnam War Vet some change?”

    Johhny, the crackhead from days past who would break into his Michael Jackson (heee-eeee!) routine at most hippie music jams downtown. Johnny was last seen hanging at the chapel hill/carborrough food co-op, where i guess the hippies are wealthier and even more tolerant than here. he says the city (of asheville) bought him a bus ticket there.

    “Dre dog”, the two-cent pimp that everyone probably remembers from a few years ago, as well. he was the one with the big, rounded Princess Leah Dreads. He also appeared on the cover of GFE’s 1999 album “Slactivism” holding a sign in front of pack square that says “Free Time”

    oh, i’m sure i’m missing quite a few. anyone else out there have any favorite downtown panhandler/homeless-person stories?

  17. mandoman

    Silverman, that’s pretty darned amusing. In terms of where the money is going, I would speculate that it will be quite a while before the break-even point for these donation boxes is hit, between the beaurocracy to make the decision, get the boxes, and then lo and behold, install them. I don’t think it will be long before these boxes start disappearing, either. The attitudes on this blog towards homeless people, who are typically mentally ill, are shameful. Amazing for an area that is seemingly full of religious people. We were not commanded to judge, we were asked to help the poor, right? I will give a little spare change if I have some. If people want to “clean up” downtown, the leaders of this city should take some of these new found property taxes and put them toward shelters, training and assistance problems. We all know how pitiful spending is towards public health, esp. mental health issues. It would seem to me that property owners would encourage these kinds of programs, as “solving the problem” will only make them more money. Denying the problem, putting people on buses, etc… is going to cost more money in the long run. It costs a lot of money to incarcerate somebody, and with no rehab will likely end up in jail again. Money. Gotta spend a little to make a little, so they say. Why not work on the problem instead of fiddling with it for another decade?

  18. dankster

    Money = True evil, Blinds us all – Love all serve all.Earth is Home,not your shelterd suburban lives.

  19. dankster

    Are you lonely Jason is that it !.Oh no wait – you have lived a very sheltered life ? Your a joke right, HAHAHA ! You all ways sound so small minded. here watch a movie – Its not at all to far fetched. – and please stop replying too my comments. All you are is an Agitator. And I really believe I do not speak your language, or do I care to engage any further than this reply. I am here too read article and comment on article at hand. Most people are one step/paycheck from being homeless, but act as if they are not. Homelessness is not a new thing that has just developed on Earth and Its not going away because of some black donation boxes. It’s life, we are all in it. Whether you have a home or not any individual has just as much right to be in the city as the next. Money does not make you special. I will still give too street performers/artist and the occasional panhandler that weighs up to my scrutiny & I believe needs it, when you know its real,you just know (some are Jokers).I do not believe i will trust some Who Knows Who organization. My belief is people are people – No one is above Another. Greed strikes everybody yes everybody, just as tragedy strikes and leaves you with nothing. With no real great over sight that I can see with these collections , who’s too say where the money you put in that box is going to go. These boxes I believe are part of a bigger Agenda to supposedly try too clean up the downtown streets or to detour “Those” people that some find undesirable, so that high priced sales on high priced condos can be sold. This way everything looks nice & pretty. And None of “Those” people are in the sales picture, or the occasional magazine that feels asheville is the greatest place in the whole world, that supposedly deserves some kind of crazy special Number ranking.

  20. silverman

    mr bugg,

    i believe Mr dankster meant to say: Imagine, when the people lead the leaders will follow. Relax, All One, We Still Pray. It takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

  21. Hey Dankster, wouldn’t it be great if schools got all the money they need and the Air Force had to hold a bake sale when it needed a new bomber?

  22. nazerithian


    What ever happened to that one older black guy who used to hang out at blue moon and old europe who thought he was a movie star in a movie at all times? I used to see him every day downtown, talking to himself and posing on the street corner.

    Anyone remember him?

    And what’s with the hairy dude with the cloak and hat and staff who looks like an extra from a DandD fantasy movie?

  23. Kristina

    Wow- coming from Franklin, I always have this great impression of Asheville being so open and caring… from most of the comments here, I suppose maybe I’m wrong. No one seems to mind being constantly bombarded by corporate advertisers asking for our money… why are people so afraid of a little human interaction?

  24. steven beltrami


    the second guy you are refferring to is ‘brother chris’ who i’m pretty sure was the one kicked out of the council meeting a few weeks back for saying “WO TO THOSE WHO MAKE UNJUST LAWS”

    i’d say outbursts like that are a good enough reason to keep the vagrants around.

  25. HerbalT

    Dear Kristina and All,
    We are all lovers and we are all haters. Mmmm maybe a good bumper sticker?

    Give if you wanna give, don’t if you don’t. If you tune in to your intuition you can tell if someone is lying about their story or not. Most people pay for some form of entertainment. I gave a dollar to a dude outside the OP. He was spinning tale after tale, but made me smile. I thought it was worth a dollar at the time. It’s not my responsibility what he does with the money anyway. It’s his choice, his life.

    I’m a paycheck away from being homeless. Always have been, but have never been homeless. I’m blessed yes, but the universe doesn’t play favorites. Help and love is out there just as much as rejection and hate. Expect to get exactly what you expect you’ll get.

    love me, hate me, love them, hate them. We’ll all be around ’til we’re not, regardless.

  26. J. Scott

    Some relevant commentary on the matter:

    Luke 4:16-21. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read… “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He appointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD… Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

    Ps. 140:12. I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.

    Is. 25:4. For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress.

    Ps. 10:14. The unfortunate commits himself to You; You have been the helper of the orphan… O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed.

    Is 41:17. The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst. I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them.

    Luke 6:20-21. Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

    James 2:5. Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

    Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

    Is. 58:66. Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

    Luke 3:11. And John the Baptist would answer and say to them, “Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise.”

    Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

    Prov. 22:9 He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.

    Prov. 19:17. He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.

    You know, I don’t see anything at all there about ‘except for smelly ones’ or ‘except for those asking’ or ‘except for those who were laid off from their aerospace job because they turned 50’. But then again, it’s only the Bible, which is just a bunch of superstitions right? We are much more enlightened nowadays and we know that when we find the poor, it is better to tell them ‘get a job you bum’, kick them around a bit, then run them out of down, like many of the fine citizens of Asheville are advocating in the above comments.

  27. Yetisquatch

    to suzy-q:
    you are aware that average folks piss in the stairwells and alleys too right? its one of those common side effects from drinking to much alcohol. laying blame only on the homeless is ignoring reality. if you dont believe me then hang out downtown when the bars close.

    as for giving money to the homeless, i stopped about 2 years ago once i realized that they dont need it. food and shelter is available free to them in abundance in this town (especially food). they only need to stay sober enough to receive it or take advantage of it. if the money from these boxes goes directly to one of the charities then id be more than willing to contribute every now and then.

    that, and i havent heard an original “story” in forever. its always “sister-baby-$3-bus ticket-cherokee”. that should be the official asheville bumper sticker.

  28. You know what would help donations in those boxes? If they actually had a sign on them explaining what they were used for.

    Just an idea.

  29. I’m amazed. The level of compassion is completely underwhelming. Kudos to J Scott. I wonder how many of the folks who have commented negatively regarding homeless/poor people call themselves Christians?

  30. wncbob

    It is unrealistic to think that these drop boxes are going to eliminate homeless people from begging. If anything, we’ve given them little hotspots to hang out at (next to each of these posts)… “Hey man, why don’t you give me this change instead of throwing it in this box?”

  31. And I say, give it to them. A little charity never hurt anyone, even if it’s a little misplaced. I don’t think the boxes are the answer, either. Economic opportunity and compassion would be a nice start.

  32. C.Muse

    I’m sure that a lot of people who call them selves
    Christians have commented negatively on homeless-poor people. But on the other hand-Christian Services provide a large amount of assistance to Asheville’s Homeless Community.ABCCM-Salvation Army-and Churches in the area that provide regular street feedings and shelter. Some homeless people have a story to tell…some a line.Some times it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. But just in case …what’s a little spare change?

  33. vtstream

    When I visited Asheville last month I was surprized by the number of panhandlers working the streets. I talked to one young guy about why he felt he needed to do this. He explained that rents were high and he just wasn’t making it. He said he was going to school to become a welder and showed be a chunk of steel that was an excercise he had completed in a class. He seemed ok. Maybe it was a scam. Maybe not. Who am I to judge?
    I noticed that in Asheville, there seems to be a lack of good paying jobs. Sure, there are a lot of service jobs that don’t pay much. The people who fall through the cracks probably need some help. I gave the welder a buck.

  34. jeff


    quote – “Jesus didn’t give us the commandment to give to the poor only “if they deserved it”. The commandment was to give to the poor. I remember something in there about not striving for material wealth, as well.”

    you are correct in stating that the Bible instructs us to help the poor, however the bible does not condemn wealth. it does not state – “money is the root of all evil” as many are fond of quoting. It states “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10.

    2 Thessalonians 3:10
    For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” Lest I be berated by those quick to point out flaws, the verse does not say those who CANNOT work but those who WILL NOT work. These is a difference. Most of the people who ask me for money downtown are in their 20s and say something to the effect “let me be honest, I am not a beggar but can I have a dollar for a beer?” That is begging and that is annoying! Why should they enjoy the fruits of my labor?

  35. TigerShark

    Ths article was posted on July 9, 2007. Is there a follow-up? Apparently the number of beggars hasn’t dropped in the city of Asheville?

  36. emily

    I am really ashamed of the first few posts that I have read. Many many homeless people I have met are not homeless because they are lazy; they often work two or sometimes three jobs. They get up before the sun and work all day. This is just the reality of some of America’s working poor. Others I have met have severe mental illnesses and have way to afford treatment, or to support themselves. Before we judge all of them, or stereotype them I would encourage somebody to get to know “that homeless person.”

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