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.
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