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?
@Commenty Colin - I was wondering about the on-ramp panhandlers myself. For someone who doesn't spend a lot of time downtown, most of my encounters with panhandlers are those who sit in high auto-traffic areas.
Thank you for this article. The truths of homelessness do not seem to reach privileged eyes and ears often enough. My favorite line of yours is "if it is an epidemic, those who resort to it are the afflicted rather than the disease."
Joe, this is a great, well-researched article, thanks so much for taking it on. One thing: I was left wondering about how those who worked high-vehicle-traffic spots did.
This is probably the wrong takeaway, but I was struck (read: depressed) by, "The 50 respondents reported an average hourly income of $4.96." That made me wonder what minimum wage nets out at, after taxes and the costs of being employed (e.g. transportation, work clothes, etc). Sadly, it can't be a hell of a lot over $5.
Ben, great article. Thanks for the coverage on this; it's nice that other media outlets are writing up Portland for something other than the usual stereotypes (fuuuuck you, Portlandia).
I just want to say -- about Christmas Duck, it's such a wonderful device because, instead of finding the key under the doormat (which is where I looked first), it immediately shifts the tone from typical first-person horror game to a more sensible, realistic sort of fear -- family.
it costs money like a game but its really just a story that most people wouldnt care about.
Save your time and money.
Yeah, that's kinda spoiler-ish, although if you are a human being you're able to understand how telegraphed that is from very early on. I would agree it's best to go in without knowing anything, including Christmas Duck.
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