ZAC PENNINGTON—Please shut up.
RE: "The Millionaire Panhandler" [Feature, Sept 25], in which author Joe Streckert surveyed 50 people whose primary source of income is panhandling on the streets of Portland.
HELLO PORTLAND MERCURY AND JOE [STRECKERT]—My name is Ledena, I'm a street outreach worker at JOIN, and I wanted to write to say thank you so much for the way you handled the "myths and facts" about flagging for income and panhandling in Portland. I saw the cover of the Mercury this morning after doing outreach and was about to blow a gasket until I read Joe's article. With the recent coverage of Portland's homeless and the regime change over to Charlie Hales, I was super happy to see something like this, refuting the pretty overwhelming and mythical judgments of how much money people make on the streets and why they do it.
JOE [STRECKERT]—I wanted to send a quick note to congratulate you on your article. You did an excellent job assuring the voices of people living in very desperate situations were represented in the article. I really appreciate this aspect of your writing. Thanks for tackling this "thorny" subject with a keen focus on dignity and respect. Please let me know if there is any way I can support your efforts.
Wayne Centrone, Center for Social Innovation
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-plus 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, etc. I've been in some cities and towns where one day I'll make $120 in under three hours, and then not make another $10 for the next four 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 [signs], 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 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 TV, take a four-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.
posted by catsunicorns
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.
Posted by foxtrot
CONGRATULATIONS TO FOXTROT for sharing... and caring. Foxtrot wins this week's Mercury letter prize, with two tickets to the Laurelhurst Theater, where one can observe a broad spectrum of human experience.