I tell those bums if I wanted to hear a commercial I'd stay home and watch TV.
I would concur with Amanda Sledz and others who point out that this "research" is smug, poorly-referenced trash. Nothing is clarified here, no insights given. At least we know, as Mercury employee, that this author's heroic research jaunts weren't well-compensated.
In fact, I would agree this is plagiarism unless 2006 straight dope article author is the same person...
And "the cultural archetype of the well-off panhandler (along with the equally mythical welfare queen) has lodged itself in the popular imagination"-- who do you hang out with? I would guess that at least 80% of portlanders have moved beyond this stereotype sir...tilting at windmills, senor.
Why the Mercury takes on these issues in the presumed interest of furthering the conversation-- but does so in such a half-assed, uncritical, and poorly directed way-- is beyond me. This probably should have gone under I,Anonymous. Stick to your Hump festival, or whatever.
I work at Powell's City of Books and spend a lot of time traversing the adjacent blocks, and I get hit up for cash INCESSANTLY. Just today while waiting for my lunch at the food carts on SW 10th, I was asked for money three times by three different people in the span of five minutes. It was astounding for lack of a better word. I've definitely noticed an uptick in panhandling in general, but there are days when it feels like every third person on the sidewalk wants something from me. In my estimation, the problem is out of control. If it weren't for my job, I would seldom if ever go downtown. Don't get me wrong; I have empathy for people on the street, but it's easy to feel overwhelmed to the point of indifference. I'm not sure what the solution is, but nonetheless it's good to see a conversation happening around this issue.
I actually enjoyed the article, criticisms notwithstanding (not to mention they seem to miss the author's genuinely humane tone, which I found refreshing given all the heat surrounding the debate over how we treat the homeless in Portland). I sporadically spent time on the streets as a hitchhiker when I was younger and can understand some of what these folks have experienced. I always try to be kind to panhandlers, but must admit some in Portland can drive me nuts. Large aggressive males are scary, plain and simple, and I've seen more than a few in Portland who genuinely scare women when they get too close for comfort. I also have to chuckle a bit at the idea that buskers are taking money from the public that somehow should go to panhandlers -- I've busked in many cities and Portland ain't all that generous to any street musicians unless they're in a large group like All the Apparatus or some of the more theatrical street musicians I've seen. And maybe that's the point -- the public, which is often broke, responds to people who make an effort to give not simply take. I'm not condemning people who feel they have nothing to "give" to those from whom they beg, but it's only natural in a world where every second people are besieged with pleas for their money, from businesses and churches, not-for-profits and charities, that panhandlers tend to be low on the list of priorities for a lot of folks. Homelessness is a complex, case by case issue -- it runs from those who don't deserve to be on the street to those who do to a lot of folks who are somewhere in between. I remember an elderly gentleman who would come down at closing time to a bar I frequented. the kindly manager would let him clean up the outdoor tables at night before giving him a few bucks or a meal. Some nights she simply didn't have enough cash to help him, but he'd still lend a hand if he could -- they established a cordial relationship over time and sort of even became friends. The reason a lot of panhandlers struggle is they don't have such relationships, and it's hard to establish one in the split second you try to catch a stranger's eye. I think there are a lot of answers to this "problem" but the first thing to do is for everyone to stop blaming each other for why it's happened and talk to each other first. I'm glad this writer did, he made me think a lot about the people I pass, the ones I give a little change to and the ones I don't.
I've heard a few urban myths about what panhandlers make. I've always assumed they've made somewhere between minimum wage and maybe above on a good day if they were dedicated. What peeves me most is lots of people work crummy jobs and get paid close to nothing. I've been there in this recession. Did I like getting debased by working a job that was pointless? Hell no, but I and other people did it anyway.
Granted, there's probably barriers to these people not working like substance abuse or mental illness or past convictions, but a sizeable portion of them could turn the corner if they were held to task.
I don't care what a panhandler makes, what I and others care about is there is a panhandler on every corner. We are offering a terrible face to tourists, potential businesses, and of course to our own damn residents who want to enjoy the city without being asked for change on every block.
Having been a transient homeless person in Portland (more specifically, a dirty kid in Portland), I can say most assuredly people are not generous in Portland. Anywhere you go. Some of the best spots still only yield $60 on the best day, panhandling for 10+ hours (both sidewalk and off-ramp). It's true that it's really pretty much impossible to determine an accurate portrayal of homeless "income" as some cities love travelers and consistently give us $20 bills and others (read: every single city on the west coast) are liable to give you closer to $0.36. And that again depends on the day, the weather, the people who drive or walk past you, et cetera. I've been in some cities and towns where one day, I'll make $120 in under 3 hours, and then not make another $10 for the next 4 days. It's not really quantifiable. It isn't even really understandable unless you're actually out there and know the city, the places to fly, the ways people respond to your signs, the days people are more likely to give you cash, so on and so forth. Even if you are making 80-100 dollars a day, you have no bank account, you have no reasonable way to save money; you probably want to rent a hotel room, watch some T.V., take a 4 hour shower and drink some decent whiskey.
Y'all can be as academic as you want about it, but you're still ultimately clueless to the reality of homelessness. No sass, just saying, sociology degrees only take you so far.
I think it would have been worth it to contact a sociology professor at PSU or Reed or Lewis and Clark for insight as to research previously conducted on this subject. Any one of these colleges would have also offered insight as to difficulties in collecting a survey sample, and would have provided a quote (an original one) that could have been used in this article regarding the difficulties in gathering this data. He could have also contacted any of a number of area nonprofits (such as Outside In) to compare his own research to theirs, as each of these nonprofits must have evaluation plans so that they can report to grantmakers. This article would have been spared the level of scrutiny it's (rightly) receiving if it wasn't peppered with smug, false statements such as: "very few academics or scientists have bothered with interviewing panhandlers directly." And I don't know how others define plagiarism, but I grade papers for a living, and if the very first link in a basic google search resulted in an article that began and ended the exact same way as the student's article, and contained cited research that mirrors the only research mentioned (though it was a bit more timely in 2006 than it is now) I'd consider it plagiarism.
As to the posts mentioning the 2006 article in The Straight Dope and its pretty obvious similarities, the assumption has been that this writer, Joe Streckert, copied the 2006 article. There is another assumption that could be made, that he also authored the 2006 article (he clearly writes for other publications and sites). It is a very good question being that if he had no hand in the 2006 article his writing would,sadly, border on plagiarism (if not technically, then ethically) and would at least qualify as lazy as stated in previous comments. It made me curious, but I cannot verify either assumption.
Second, the author never makes a claim that his survey or collected data is anything but casual and very general so the critiques regarding methodology and accuracy of his data set and collection are excessive and off base. And, despite data being available regarding panhandling income, the data varies widely from study to study and city to city (as might be expected.) This article is a good generalized view of panhandling in Portland--it accomplishes it target providing readers with a basic idea as to the issues and reality of panhandling in Portland.
"And yet the concluding paragraph of the referenced article states: 'In short, it's pretty hard to get good data on the issue.'"
This is very decontextualized. Your disagreement with Amanda is clearly designed to make her appear wrong. She is not wrong. This Mercury article is indeed poor research, and numerous social science researchers have, in fact, interviewed homeless people, including panhandlers. There is also definitely much data, as good as it gets anyway without doing large population longitudinal studies (a veritable impossibility with homeless people and panhandling), on panhandling income.
Her main point seems to have been based on the fact that even the most amateur Googler could quickly find the source used in the Mercury article. Further, she suggests that it is very unlikely that the Mercury writer did not use the same article she found through such a method due to its similarity with the Sherlock Holmes introduction. Based on her comment, I would guess she thinks that the article she cited is poor research as well, because it is. Her overall message then, as I read it, is that this was lazy research based on one lame article that appears right away from a simple Google search and that it hardly qualifies as research, and I agree. This all seems to have gone over your head.
BTW, it wouldn't have been so bad had the author not taken such an authoritative academic stance. His work clearly does not hold up to the stance he has taken, and anyone who thinks this work cuts it academically is obviously ignorant of how social science knowledge is constructed.
When I first moved to Portland, I used to make an effort to give a bit of food to the unfortunate on the sidewalks. I live downtown, so I recognize many of the "regulars." One day, I saw the pitiful old lady who seems half blind and leans on a walker near Powell's with a full shopping cart in Whole Foods - and getting around much better than I thought she could. Another day I saw her get into a cab. Not to mention the numerous times I have seen one of them pull a smart phone out of their pockets. These are not urban legends - I have seen them with my own eyes. I have plenty of friends who can't afford a smart phone, or a cab, or to shop in Whole Foods, so I am afraid much of my generosity toward the panhandlers has dried up. Now I prefer to volunteer at the Oregon Food Bank, or donate blankets to the youth and domestic abuse shelters. Hopefully these efforts can help someone who is struggling to get back on their feet. The panhandlers seem quite capable of fending for themselves.
Yes, it does. Perhaps the author of this article just copied that line, too.
And yet the concluding paragraph of the referenced article states: "In short, it's pretty hard to get good data on the issue."
The homeless population of portland is kinda like the whales of Puget Sound: there's the residents, and then there's the transients. I think (at least in Portland) when people articulate resentment and suspicions of wealth they are primarily talking about the transient population, which does contain some trustafarians having an adventure who could easily call mom and dad if need be. While you mention the average age, you don't mention the youngest people you spoke to, making it unclear what kind of survey sample you were working with, exactly. The responses seem to indicate that you spoke mostly to older people. There's also no mention if you spoke with any Street Roots vendors (and how much they make) or data presented about what the average busker takes in. But, most importantly, the statement about this data being hard to find it absurd. A simple google search for "average homeless income" results in an article that also quotes the Toronto research, with an introduction that bares a striking resemblance to this one. The original article is from 2006. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2255/how-much-money-do-beggars-make
K.D. - Can you please site where I could find this data. I would be interested in seeing a more fleshed out report on this problem, but I don't know where to look.
So glad you've moved beyond being angry, congratulations!
Honestly, I am beyond even being angry at lazy dope fiends anymore. I do wonder what might have been if they gave a shit about their own future, instead of their next score.
This is a fine example of professional journalism. Next, I'd like to read your report on end user love grass dealers.
Congrats Mercury, you have justified your existence for a bit longer yet.
The whole article sadly is baseless from this sentence: "Solid data about panhandlers' income and spending patterns are hard to come by".
The author didn't do their research if they think there is no data out there.
Do the social sciences not even exist for the author??
Does the author even have any schooling in ethnography?
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