Columbus is known for being open and friendly to everyone — which is one of the great things about our fair city. Those in the retail industry love the Pride Parade, because it brings people downtown who are interested in buying just about any rainbow-hued item. The street vendors with their carts are having a field day.
Today is Garten Markt Day in German Village. It brings a lot of people to the Village to look at some of the goods for sale.
The crowds also attracted two people who had the tags that identify them as designated sellers of Street Speech, the newspaper published by the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless. They stationed themselves on opposite sides of Third Street near the German Village Society building, and when Kasey and I walked past one asked me for a donation.
I often contribute to the Coalition news sellers and never take a paper. In my experience, they are good people who are unfailingly friendly and polite, whether you decide to make a contribution or not. This time, too, I stopped and gave one of the sellers a dollar, wished him a good day and, as usual, declined a paper.
When I was walking back a few minutes later the Coalition person was leaning against a fence, talking on his cell phone. Wait a minute, I thought. A cell phone?
Maybe I’m just an ignorant, inconsiderate jerk who is totally out of the mainstream of thought on this, but having a cell phone and paying cell phone bills and charges seems inconsistent with the premise that a person is at the point of needing to be a registered vendor for the Coalition for the Homeless to make a few bucks selling their newspaper. Seeing the guy chatting away on his iPhone was a bit jarring to me.
I’m not saying that homeless people need to be shoeless and look like they’re starving before they can reasonably peddle newspapers on a street corner. It would be good news indeed if our neediest people in this country all can afford warm clothes and cell phones and their own data plans, and perhaps I just need to trust the Coalition for the Homeless to give those identification tags only to people who are truly needy. But boy — if I were in charge I would tell the street vendors to put away the cell phones until their shifts are over. I think it sends a really mixed message.