The problem is just the same as with pigeons. If you feed one, soon the entire flock shows up. People in Portland are too nice. Free food at the mission is the humane thing to do. Sleeping in doorways is just fucking fine. More showers and latter hours in public restrooms would be an improvement, but stop handing out cash, and the bums will get tired of asking.
And lastly, I am always curious how come we never ask them what they want to fix the issue (to get them on their feet). We as taxpayers are always looking for solutions to address the problem (though that wasn't touched here), but we should be asking them for solutions, and not telling them solutions. This seemed like a good opportunity to have asked these types of questions and it was missed. We need questions with purpose, not just fact-bucket gathering. As a society we take the stance of we know best, rather than asking what is best and that is a real shame.
Perhaps this is a case of perspective; less generous than other cities? If I take a walk around the waterfront trail and gave ever panhandler $1, I'd be out $100 dollars before even finishing my 3 mile walk back to the car. And I am not kidding here. This city is initiated with panhandlers. So perhaps this is more a case of supply and demand than the perception of generosity. I'm a recent Seattle transplant (about 2 years ago), and I have never seen a city (except maybe Memphis) with a higher per capita of homeless rate. But the fact that gets me is their brashness; telling me to go to the bank, cat calling the joggers going by, living under as internment camps under every single bridge cranny, and coming up to my children like a long lost aunt while tripped out on meth/heroin. Portland doesn't even own it's Chinatown.
As for race, not sure the importance here. Portland is a white city. If anything this shows how it is still slightly skewed to the minorities in relation to the general population.
I wish this were an editorial piece, at least maybe some longer blurbs at the end. Taken as is, it really doesn't mean much as this is pretty transparent knowledge.
I can tell you that I view most panhandlers with hostility because as someone who collects bottles and cans I actually DO SOMETHING for my money, not sit on my ass begging. Sure, there's people who are disabled or suffer from chronic pain, and I have nothing against them at all (even sitting or standing for hours can be taxing, in its own way, so I feel for them!); but, those Road Warrior punks and other able-bodied folk are an affront the the value of money in terms of the work people have to do to collect their paychecks, and is indicative of a shamelessly self-centered attitude.
I know they don't make as much as ultra-conservatives accuse them of making, but I distinctly recall them making more than I did when I tried selling Street Roots a few years ago. What's up, Portland? You'd rather throw your money into a garbage can of entitlement complex, instead of paying for a good or service? I can count on both hands how many jobs I tried to hold and lost when I was on the streets, while these jerks were playing for chumps fools befuddled by Kerouac romanticism and skewed priorities. Apparently these people are too good to eat dinner at the Rescue Mission, or line up at Labor Ready early in the morning.
Well, they aren't getting any of my money. Try averaging between $1.25 and $2.75 an hour collecting bottles and cans! That's right, not sitting on my ass.
Hi again Amanda,
My mission was to investigate the economics and demographics among panhandlers, and to that end I found the most oft-cited research on the matter, spoke with one of the coauthors, and then went into the field and conducted and independent study. I also read up on several different aspects of homelessness, and that did indeed include using Google.
The articles you cite (some of which I had read prior to writing this article) present panhandlers as obstacles to be negotiated or problems for law enforcement to deal with, particular the in the (very interesting) DoJ publication referenced by PopCenter. The 1992 study is good, but it is also from over twenty years ago and is less current than Bose and Hwang. I was aware of it, but again: it's from 1992. Bose and Hwang are more recent, hence I reference them and talked to one of them. (I said that "very few" academics have delved into this field, not "none.")
For what it's worth, there has been good qualitative, non-survey research into this. If you want to read a good book about life on the street in New York City, I highly recommend Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier, which I read for background info while researching this. It's not just about panhandlers, but it is a fascinating bit of sociology.
This is all beside the point, though.
What I wanted to get with this piece was specific numbers on a marginalized population in Portland in particular, and I used the most current and oft-cited piece of scholarship as a jumping off point for my own original research. And I'd really like to reiterate that this piece isn't about Bose and Hwang's work, it's not about a Sherlock Holmes story, and it's not about any other article that you might link to.
This is a snapshot of fifty people in Portland who ask for money on the street, and a distillation of their answers to me. What I've done here is original research of a particular time and place that I hope, in some form or fashion, helps clarify the larger issue. I do not want to be the only person who writes about, thinks about, or investigates this matter. I really do want to be just one journalist who's helped contribute to the bigger picture, and I think, by doing fifty on the street interviews that I did precisely that. In ten years (or even sooner) I hope someone else does what I did and gets updated numbers. At some point this article will be out of date and it will be up to someone else to hit the streets and do what I did. When that happens, I'll welcome their efforts.
I hope that this helps to clarify matters further.
Buskerers are musicians. Some of them are better than others. Back in the day, in the big City, you could often times hear some pretty good ones. On the other hand, food cart venders are cheaters taking up sidewalk space from buskerers and beggars. They compete unfairly with real restaurants that have to comply with sanitation standards. Pan handlers are salesmen, like Streets Roots distributors ought to be instead of begging.
It goes a little deeper than that. The structure of your article is identical to the SD one. It looks like you just rewrote theirs.
There actually are millionaire panhandlers - their names are Homer Williams and Sohrab Vossoughi of Ziba.
They're the ones who want public money to make them rich, but don't want homeless people in their precious, precious bubble of a neighborhood called the Pearl.
Half the professors at Portland State University are actually pretty good.
One last thing: I spent the time writing (and posting) all of this not to announce what a terrible journalist I think you are, or to make you feel badly about your work. Investigative journalism has always been incredibly important, a tool for providing valuable insight about a pressing issue to the general public. I hope you will perceive this criticism as encouragement to um...sharpen your tool, and not discouragement.
I appreciate your efforts to clear things up. It's challenging for me to visualize a team of high school boys engaged in a circle jerk over Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in between bong hits and comic swapping, but I also haven't met many high school boys that would call to mind the word "precocious," so maybe you're a special case. Still: did you not conduct a basic Google search before writing this article? It's the *very first* article that appears on the subject matter. And if you did read this article, and decided that you could both reasonably use the same Sherlock framework and other references without worry of plagiarism accusations, why didn't you cite the original article?
In other words: while there might be 1000 articles in a thousand science magazines that make reference to Star Trek, they are probably not the exact same Star Trek reference on the exact same subject matter (without citation), and few would be so bold to assert that there's no available information on space travel.
Much of this could be avoided by simply not making statements like "Very few academics or scientists have bothered with interviewing panhandlers directly" unless you can provide a direct, credible source for such statements. I don't find someone who hasn't mastered The Google to be credible source for insight about what the whole academic and scientific communities "have bothered" to do.
More results from my Google search:
A thorough, interesting, and personal Chicago blog from 2010 where multiple panhandlers are interviewed, and various sources are used to provide statistics, context, and insight:
The book "Antisocial Patterns of Begging and Beggars" which lists a number of studies, including the Toronto research, and is available in part through Google Books
A PopCenter article that cites research for nearly every line of text:
Those interested in the full Toronto Research, just for the sake of nerdery:
Not exactly on topic, but nonetheless interesting article in the SFGate on marketing strategies for panhandlers:
Penn State academic research that references two national surveys
Arizona State University research on panhandler demographics, including income
I brought up Buskers because you made a point of quoting an individual who identified Buskers as a source of competition. To me, that would warrant follow-up question to at least one busker, asking if they perceived themselves to be in competition for the same small pool of dollars.
As far as pop culture references to panhandling, come on. GOOGLE SOMETHING. This is just lazy. Here's a place to start: Mark Twain.
I had a shithead get in my face at 4am in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, saying, "This isn't like New Orleans or nothing, but ..." That's when I side stepped him and broke his fucking leg off at the knee, with a side kick. I guess that never happened to him in the French Quarter.
I wouldn't normally wade into the comments on a story I've done, but you've accused me of the worst thing a writer can do, and this warrants a response. Plagiarism is taking someone else's work and presenting it as your own. That is not at all what's happened here, and I hope I can clear a few things up.
I interviewed a number of academics for this piece who were not able to give me any kind of usable data or citations, and was introduced to Bose and Hwang's study by Wanyne Centrone, whom I quoted in the article. Centrone introduced me to Stephen Hwang via email, and we were able to set up a phone interview. Hwang was highly interesting to talk to, and told me that he knew of no other studies that did what he and his research partner did.
The fact is, any journalist who wants investigate panhandling is going to reference Rohit and Bose because they're the only ones who have seriously investigated the matter. That's not plagiarism at all. That's two different writers investigating something and finding the same information, which is especially likely to happen in a field as understudied as this.
As for the Sherlock Holmes reference, that's something that would come to mind to many people who started thinking about this issue. Just like lots of precocious high school boys, I read every single one of the Sherlock Holmes stories growing up, and have revisited them as an adult. I'm hardly the only person who's done this- they're kind of popular, after all. Plenty of writers reference popular culture as a way to contextualize their work, and The Man With the Twisted Lip is probably the most well-known bit of fiction concerning panhandling. Just like science writers who constantly (and independently of each other) mention Star Trek, it looks like I and another guy both mentioned that Sherlock Holmes story. And why wouldn't we? Can you think of any other works of pop culture all about panhandling? I can't. That's not plagiarism. That's just having a similar cultural background.
Regarding buskers, they are not panhandlers. They are buskers. Conflating the two groups would not have yielded anything of insight. I hope this helps clarify things.
I quite appreciated this article, no matter my stance on homeless populations. The random sampling survey Mr. Streckert performed provided answers to questions we all have in Portland. I agree that the anecdotal research on persons experiencing homelessness is hard to come by and academics depend on someone else to do the leg work and start the conversation, which is exactly what Mr. Streckert has done. Is this the magna carta on Portland panhandlers, no, but if you find flaw in the instrument then please feel free and spend countless hours on the street attempting to interview panhandlers. I suggest bringing a rain coat and leaving your judgements at home.
If you really want to know how much a panhandler makes in a day, ask a bank teller working near a panhandling hot spot. $60-$90 per day, same people trading ones for twenties.
Human in Training- Dude don't apologize for shit. If they can accept the fact that they live as fucking beggars then they can accept the fact that people won't give them anything.
Seattle is the goddamn WORST when it comes to this kind of thing. "Gimme five dollars" is the standard greeting from their beggars, and it's never asked politely.
So i reread my above comment a couple of hours later and now think that perhaps i was overly focused on a couple of quotes that you (catsunicorn) might've accidentally left a few important qualifiers out of (like the words "most", or "relatively", etc.).
You're probably (hopefully) not nearly as ungrateful or as much of an asshole as i made you out to be. But, man, you just come off as if you think the general population is less decent in certain cities, or whatever, because one can't make a good living panhandling there; as if panhandling is just as legitimate and deserving-of-pay as any other form of 'employment'. It's not. And while it's a good thing that many of us feel compelled to help out (myself included, despite the fact that i'm making less than half of what i used to make, now hovering just a couple of bucks over minimum wage) when we can by giving money to beggars and charities, it still should be seen and utilized as simply that: HELPING OUT. Not subsidizing. Not perpetuating.
Expecting people to consistently pay your way (especially when you are capable, mentally and physically, of standing on your own two feet), and then judging them when they don't play ball, is simply wrong and inconsiderate and lazy.
You "can most assuredly [say that] people are not generous in Portland" because "some of the best spots still only yield $60 on the best day"? Yeah, what a bunch of jerks -- $60 for sitting on your ass with your hand out is such a rip-off. Way more people should just give away way more of their hard-earned money to anyone who asks, every time. And if they don't (or if they have the audacity to only give spare change), they're simply "not generous". Right?
You're the type of asshole who accepts a sandwich from somebody and then bitches about them under your breath because they didn't give you two of them. Ungrateful fucks like you make it that much harder for those that genuinely appreciate every dime they are given. People reading comments like yours now have another reason to believe that their generosity (whether you acknowledge it as being such or not) often goes unappreciated and, more times than not, is an act of futility, only helping in getting somebody sauced on whiskey. Good to know that i wasn't being generous all those times i ever gave somebody anything less than $20.
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.
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