"I've never been panhandled so often in my life."

Dude needs to leave Hawaii more often.
Dude needs to go on a "rigorous camping trip"...up his own ass.
Portland has a strong tourism industry that is in constant danger, apparently. It's the Tori Amos defense.
I've been to almost every state, and I get panhandled in Portland a LOT more often than I can remember anywhere else. My friends who have moved out here from NYC have all mentioned how much more of it there is here.

Sorry if it's somehow not politically correct to dislike it (?), but it IS a gauntlet downtown, sometimes. I've had dates get really upset with what they see as aggressive panhandling, while just walking from one bar to the next. I'm sure I'm totally fascist, but it makes me want to yell: 'I don't have any money to give you! I can't fix your life! I didn't have any money for the last guy, or the one before him, or the one before him, or the next three guys I can see between here and my car. You just SAW me turn down two other guys! Stop asking me!'

I'm mean, but I don't like to think I'm stupid - sure they need organized help, sure we need a citywide effort. But I also don't hate the idea of cutting down on their harassment, too.
@Reymont; If you want to yell...

"'I don't have any money to give you! I can't fix your life! I didn't have any money for the last guy, or the one before him, or the one before him, or the next three guys I can see between here and my car. You just SAW me turn down two other guys! Stop asking me!'"

Go ahead. But that would be expressing your first amendment rights, just like they are. That's why we have a constitution in this country, because it helps us all feel like we can say what we want.
Count me in the group of people who think the panhandling downtown is obnoxious, aggressive, and a nuisance. Matt, you're young and unburdened by kids. Try pushing a stroller around Pioneer Courthouse Square sometime. I've done that many, many times--sometimes it's great, sometimes it truly is like running the gauntlet. My older parents won't even go down there anymore, and they're about as liberal as it gets. I've had friends and relatives who have visited from out of state remark about the situation, and all of them come from urban areas with significant homeless populations. It's a problem. Don't delude yourself and pretend that this is just the crazy right-wing Oregonian doing the bidding of the PBA.
@Matt Davis - Sure, but if I was blocking the sidewalk while I was doing all that yelling, that would be interfering with other people and I should be asked to move to one side. That's the only goal here, right?
@Matt Davis - "we" have a constitution in "this" country? What is your citizenship status again?
Jesus Christ, people, get a fucking grip.

No one is forcing you to go downtown. If you don't want to see panhandlers, go somewhere where there are no panhandlers. The rest of us who don't insist on poverty being swept under the rug will manage on our own, since it's still pretty profitable to run a business in this city without catering to whiny assholes.

I think after several attempts, it's pretty clear that having police and security guards harass homeless people isn't going to pass constitutional muster, so we're going to have to find another solution.

And The Needler, fuck you.
You know, I've heard this argument uttered in most other big cities. Seattle, San Francisco, NYC. Even small cities like Omaha, Detroit, San Antonio and Austin. Every city has the "worst" panhandling and everyone has "friends and relatives" from some archetypal big city and are therefore an expert that say "this is the worst".

The solution is always the same: Downtown business consortium proposes a massive sweep but then "moderates" and proposes some draconian rule of conduct to allow for greater policing power. Essentially, Downtown becomes Disneyland. You must be this tall to ride, no yelling, no swearing, don't sit there, you can't touch that and so on and so forth.

If you oppose such ordinances, every self-styled world traveler says "well, in this other city, where they have REAL homelessness, they say this city has the worst panhandling", claims to have some large statistical base of anecdotes to draw from and so on, all pointing to the city as having the worst panhandling.

None of them provide economic studies specific to the environment, they just ramble on about how bad it is and how they have family and friends that won't go downtown anymore. And these rules don't work at all, anyway:

The "I know people, they say Portland is the worst, you're delusional" argument is utter bullshit from people that can't differentiate between what's annoying and what's a threat. Here's a hint, though: one is your problem, the other is prohibited by law.
Anyone complaining about the Portland panhandling gutter punks from Nebraska and Oklahoma needs to checkout Denver and Chicago.

That's all I'm sayin'.

I live Downtown. It's not that big of a deal to say, "sorry, man."
Ditto, eldepeche...

The Needler: Fuck you. Matt is as much a citizen as anyone else here (and is probably more of one than your sorry ass will ever be).
Wow. Oregonian really? This is embarrassing. For them.
The angry ostrich squad definitely has its feathers ruffled over this one. "Hey, yeah, fuck those squares who don't like homeless people! Let them go elsewhere if they don't want to turn down a spanger every 10 feet."

Well, yeah, those people *are* going elsewhere. Downtown isn't exactly blooming these days. Have you folks who are so passionate about the free speech rights of 22 year old punks bothered to look at the empty storefronts on downtown streets, and in Pioneer Square? It's pretty pathetic. For whatever reason, people aren't really inclined to go downtown these days. The aggressive panhandlers may not be causing it, but they're not helping it.
@Alexjon - Good post. You might be right. I hope not! But it sounds like you do have some knowledge here.

But you discount anecdotal evidence without providing anything contrary, right? I've traveled, and I'm sure it's worse in Portland than in any of the other US cities that I've been to. Sure, I understand that's a seriously limited data set to work with! But do you have the kind of economic studies you mentioned, to educate me differently? What cities DO have the worst?

I've missed most of the rust belt so far, and I can believe that old Detroit could easily be worse. But Philly, LA, Miami, NYC, Chicago - I think I've hit all the other large cities, usually more than once!
@Jackattak - What's your personal style? Yeah, it's a fashion question. :)

You say you live downtown and it's easy to say "sorry, man." Do you look rich? Just saying, you might not be getting the 'full experience' that some others do. When I'm in a suit with a pretty girl, I feel like I get mobbed down there.
I'd also like to add that I live and work downtown, and I barely notice there's a problem. Seriously. There is BARELY a problem, here, at all.

A kid from the Hilton came to talk up the ordinance last week and ended up saying it was bullshit, after he'd listened to the testimony. "I'm only here because my bosses told me to show up," he said.

Wow. What would Connie say?
It really is a "gantlet" that you run, while it's a "gauntlet" that you throw down.

That is all.
I do live Downtown, Blabby. I doubt I "look rich". I am 33 and dress like anyone else, typically. I am hounded by panhandlers everyday, as is my wife. She has had many of them confront her personal space.

For example, when she goes to put a cigarette butt in the trash outside of Safeway, one will ask her if she has a cigarette. When she declines, they say, "Well let me just have that" and grab the cigarette butt from her.

I have personally seen that happen twice in the past week.

We have relatively long fuses but we were both in combat in the military together so what bothers most people doesn't typically bother us since we've seen way more angering moments than most others' entire families will see in several lifetimes.
I know that its fashionable for college kids, and adults who can't stop thinking like college kids, to hate "business", but businesspeople downtown are citizens also. Where do you guys all work? At a business? Is your employer evil? Guess what the Mercury is? A business.

Ooooh, "business" wants something! It must be a conspiracy by a bunch of Scrooge McDuck types!

You sould like children.

Matt, there a bunch of fucking losers sitting all over downtown asking people for money. I've seen very aggressive tactics used, particularly against women. There are older, mentally or physically disabled homeless people that need help. But gutter punks are fucking losers who do not deserve any regard from us, and certainly don't deserve a single fucking dime from me.

You think your being a good urban "liberal" by standing up for these dirtbags but you sound like a child.

What the PBA wants is a reasonably safe, thriving downtown that people want to come to. If you think this isn't a real problem, then ask yourself why upscale shopping has moved to the Pearl and Bridgeport Village. You think Saks is going to be replaced by something equivalent? You think Nordstrom or Macy's may not be far behind?

Asking leeches to sit on the sides of the sidewalk instead of in the middle of it, so that decent people can go about their business, is not fascism. Fascism is trucking people to a gas chamber. You need to get a grip.

Also, Reymont:

This might not help when you're all gussied-up on a date with the lady, but I spend probably 80% of my Downtown walking about with my headphones in my ears. Helps tremendously when you can't hear the gutter punks asking if their asking bothers you.

Is it ignoring the problem? I guess it is. But it's not my problem that these gutter punks left Mommy and Daddy's McMansion in Nebraska or Oklahoma because they heard that Portland was an "easy target".

Keep in mind: I'm not talking about the truly destitute. I do, on occasion, grab a Clif Bar or Odwalla Bar and a bottle of water while at the grocery and give it to them. But money? No way am I supporting someone's drinking habit or meth habit or smoking habit.
Seriously, what kind of dumbass comes to the Mercury to use the Stroller Defense? STFUPARENTS.
I'm not hearing much of a counterpoint in this post, aside from "freedom of speech, man." The reality is that some people really don't like panhandling because it makes them uncomfortable in a public place they feel they have the right to be in without being harassed. Obviously some people don't think it's a big deal to just ignore then but, if a segment of the population doesn't like it, shouldn't the merits of it at least be discussed? Do those living in poverty or the homeless really benefit from panhandling or is it just a byproduct of mental illness and chemical dependency and those that choose to profit off them?

I lived on 43rd street near Times Square in New York during the Guiliani era and, while I never voted for him, I experienced first hand what some of these so called "sweeps" can do. After a certain hour you used to not walk further than a block or two from your apt because of the concentration of various criminals that were attracted to a zone of the city where there was a culture of looking the other way. The "sweep" actually helped a lot of people get out of that environment and certainly helped the people and businesses that lived in that neighborhood full time. Sure, within a few years the area got white washed with Disney musicals but it wasn't a high price to play for the freedom so walk around your community without being harassed.

I completely understand the need to protect freedom of speech and I probably share a lot of the same socioeconomic guilt that the author does but I think there are better ways to assist those in poverty than by learning how to ignore a growing population of panhandlers.
Poorly written and ill considered. Who are these people? What are their names, backgrounds, biases? Does this unsigned editorial represent the considered opinion of the company, the newsroom, a star chamber on the Fifth floor, one frightened suburbanite?

Send out the unpaid intern! Bring back the truth!
Matt, I think you did a great job on this article. Thanks.
I work downtown and NEVER never deal with panhandlers? If you want to see aggressive panhandling, check out Arcata. The only way to deal with panhandlers is with social programs....which the right wing nutsos at the oregonian and in the comment section would not want anyway. Oh and dispersing people in any way is fascist... think about what that means? Dad?
"Seriously, what kind of dumbass comes to the Mercury to use the Stroller Defense? STFUPARENTS."

Ha, yeah, fuck those parents and their kids who need to shop at places and support the economy!
Oh, move to the fucking suburbs.
The suburbs are just as bad, Matt, honestly. In Beaverton there aren't as many panhandlers but there are enough.

You think us Downtowners are being fascist by asking the kids to sit on the side of the sidewalk, you should see the reaction to panhandlers in Wash. County. I'm talking pitchforks and torches.
Matt, in line with "move to the fucking suburbs," should we establish a cordon around the central city so that only those with enough credibility (i.e., "hipster cred") are allowed in to spend their money? I would love to see the effect on the downtown economy if that happens.
Besides, if the panhandlers DO start getting kicked out of Downtown, guess where they're going to start migrating to? :)

That wouldn't bother me. ONE BIT.

Quite frankly I love the idea of the McMansionites who try to hide from the "Big Scary Downtown" and all it's "crime" having it come right to their damned doorsteps.
I just ignore them. If they get aggressive, I simply stop and firmly say "No!". Seems to work. You can't reasonably expect to never get panhandled in a city like Portland. Besides, where's the compassion? I do agree that the sidewalks need to remain mostly clear for pedestrians though.

I like what my neighbor does. She hands out new pairs of socks. Who doesn't love new socks? I'm guessing that homeless people are pretty glad to get something like that.
Oh, you mean, there's homeless people in the suburbs, too? You mean, displacing them isn't going to help anything? You mean, perhaps we should focus on building affordable housing, and giving these people drug treatment?

@Jackattak - we already have them. I know a local homeless guy that lives just in an orchard just down the street from my McMansion. I give him my bottles and cans. I actually value his presence, if you can believe that. Not sure what his history is.
If someone grabs something out of your hand, that is the crime of Harassment.

If someone puts you in fear of harm, that's the crime of Menacing.

If someone threatens you with violence to obtain your property that is called Robbery.

If someone "invades your personal space" that's called Offensive Physical Contact Prohibited (under the city code).

Call the police if it happens. The 'anecdotal' complaints are just that- anecdotal. These whiny buinsess owners never seem to have the police report to show folks about these suposedly scary incidents.

Enforce the laws we have and don't waste our time making up new laws to cover things that are already crimes.
Oh, and i don't try to hide from the "big scary downtown". I try to get down there as often as I can alone or with my kids. I'm actually more of a city person. I just live in the burbs because I work here. Not everyone out here is a paranoid, Republican, WASP douchebag. You'd be surprised at how many progressive thinkers there are.
Blabby had the best post.
"Oh, move to the fucking suburbs."

Maybe you could move back to England, Matt. Isn't half the population on the dole? Getting free methodone from the National Health, and all that? Sounds right up your alley.
There are a lot of obnoxious people in the world. The world would definitely be a better place if organized to my liking. I'd be a very benevolent queen.

In the Hawthorne area, we have lots of people parked on the sidewalks. The most obnoxious are the signature gatherers, who seem to think this neighborhood is easy pickings. Maybe we could turn this thread into one about pet peeves. Come on, channel your inner Andy Rooney.

I figure that the day I'm too weak to turn down a panhandler, it's probably time to schedule the memorial service.
I lived downtown for five years, still go down regularly, have had very little issue with panhandlers overall; "sorry sir" seems to do it. My worst experiences had nothing to do with begging, and were actually with mouthy teens who were well enough dressed and looked to be just in for the day. I walked my dog to the Nordstrom cafe on Pioneer Square at least four days a week, had my path blocked many times by inconsiderate people and had to go around, but honestly it was people with luggage, shopping bags, or a stroller more often than the crust punks. How many people actually sit in the middle of the sidewalk? If there is not some selective enforcement I think this new law is going to be used against cafes more than the homeless, which is a shame because I think the sidewalk tables are part of what make downtown great.

I don't think the people who are saying they feel threatened or overwhelmed are lying, maybe they just look like tourists and the panhandlers see them as good targets. My worst experiences with aggressive panhandlers have been in DC, San Francisco, and Seattle, in that order. In each case I was visiting and maybe people there just picked up on it. There have been national court cases on anti-begging ordinances and it is established free speech in more than just Oregon. I just accept it as part of city life and try to be thankful I am not in their shoes. I think the 'road warrior' types come for the mild climate though, not because we lack the laws to deal with them when they get out of line.
In fairness to downtown businesses, could you imagine trying to attract customers with a bunch of homeless panhandlers hanging around out front? It has to scare some people away, rightly or wrongly.

I came out of Powell's one night with the fam and a friend and his fam and there were two sets of panhandlers about to throw down over who was there first. It was getting pretty heated. I'm from SF so I'm used to that sort of thing but my friend was pretty tweaked. It's hard enough to get his lazy ass downtown as it is without him freaking out over aggressive panhandlers.
@ Matt -

Exactly. Displacing them will do no good whatsoever.
SPK, all business people are conservatives and all of their motivations are suspect always.
How tough is it to look someone in the eye and say, "No." It's not rocket science.
The point here isn't whether pan handling is annoying. It's that, just because it's annoying doesn't mean you can just make a law against it.

What would we gain from that? Let's just say, hypothetically, that a law against panhandling was passed and then rigorously enforced. Let's say that every single person who panhandles was picked up by police, removed from the street and put in prison. Don't you think that might cause some other, potentially more serious, problems? Like seriously compounding our prison over-crowding problem? Or costing the city millions is police, court and jail fees? Or causing our city to become the type of place that completely ignores the systemic issues of homelessness and tries to legislate the problem away?

I can't think of what MD being British has to do with any of this. And I can't think of why we're discussing whether panhandling is annoying. I hate it. It IS a downer. Sometimes it makes me feel unsafe. But I DO have empathy for other people. So I think about how asking for money is the only way many of these folks survive day to day and if I were in the same situation, I would try to survive by asking for money as well. I think about how unsafe I would feel if I had to sleep on the street and get constantly harassed by cops, just for being poor. I'd love for panhandling to end - I hope I can help vote in politicians who care about homeless issues. I hope I can manage to donate to places like Sisters of the Road that help feed the homeless. And I hope I remain the kind of person who is able to realize that the person asking has to deal with oh so many more problems than the momentary inconvenience of being asked for money.
Sorry for the generalizations, SPK. I was just being snarky.
I've never seen a homeless person (or even a gutter punk) actually make a downtown sidewalk impassable. The sidewalks are pretty damn wide (except where cafes have tables taking up half the space), and you'd really, really have to sprawl in order to block someone's access.

The only thing I've seen recently that really DID make downtown sidewalks impassable? Lunch lines at the food carts, which are entirely on the sidewalk. These assholes don't pay attention to people trying to walk past them, and they sure as hell aren't going to move and risk their place in line. Last time I walked past the 4th (5th?) and Oak pod, I HAD TO WALK IN THE STREET.

Face it: This ordinance is about only one thing--making sure that suburban shoppers don't have to look at unpleasant poor people, especially not ones with untreated drug or mental health problems.
Also, just to state my ultimate opinion on this subject:

While I am in support of having a clear path to get where I'm going, I am not "against" panhandling or panhandlers. As I've stated above, I often give food and drink to them as I'm doing my grocery shopping, and I would fully support a well-though program to give them the assistance they need.

That all being said, I am not fond of the gutter punks. I think a lot of them could use some military service if they are finding college to be against their wishes. I did it for six years at 20 years old and it did wonders for my life. While I'm not necessarily pro-military (especially right now), there is something to be said for serving your country. Plus they would make money and tour the world.

I've tried making this suggestion to them before in a non-snarky manner and of course I get spit at, laughed at, or completely ignored. But that's to be expected.

Even the occasions when I give them food they are mostly completely unamused and ungrateful. I rarely get a "thanks" at all. Not that I need it, I'm not helping to be "thanked". I'm helping to be human. I merely mention it to denote their mentality.
No worries, Jackattak.
I bet the "gutter punks" that scoff at the idea of joining the military are none too eager to join the Peace Corp either. Just a hunch.
Just as good of an idea, SPK. I'll mention that next time as well.
Hey, speaking of "gutter punks," here's a heartbreaking article by P:ear director Pippa Arend about her brother's recent suicide.…

Makes you think...
I think the comment flood stems from the post lacking any sort of insightful point of view. Yes, the editorial was a pro-business socially conservative viewpoint. A real critique would've proposed a counterpoint that addressed the problem instead of pandering to an audience that agrees on the principle of freedom of speech.

Also, no one is panhandling to buy a night at the Holiday Inn or healthy serving of vegetarian pasta from Yarp. Punk ass kids panhandle to get train fare back to their parents place in the burbs and adults panhandle to support drug and alcohol problems. There is no connection between quality of life or survival and panhandling and there's nothing progressive about supporting right of the downtrodden to slowly kill themselves while you perfect the art of ignoring them.
I've been threatened a few times by people asking for money. The one I remember most was the chick with a kid in a stroller who told me "Next time I'll beat yo ass and take whatever I want." Pleasant woman she was. I won't repeat what I said back to her but it shocked my partner.

There was at least one guy that actually frightened me, clearly mentally ill, but a street ban won't take him off the streets; people like that need real help. Better than banning, would be for the City to provide funding for underfunded mental health programs since the County doesn't have the money to do it.

It's the canvassers who bug me. Every corner, sometimes 2 to a corner. Leave me the F alone!

Portland certainly does have some problems with panhandlers but Seattle in the 90s was far worse. I remember being chased into buildings by panhandlers. Paris & London are also far worse than PDX. And Athens, the pickpockets there, are horrendous.

Perhaps it's because I've traveled but I just assume any city (although PDX would have to argue for that title) is going to have homeless & panhandlers. I separate the two because they aren't always the same.

My method for dealing with unwanted solicitations is by being more aggressive than the person asking, assuming a simple "No" or "No, thank you" doesn't work.

Far more than the nuisance-Lake Oswego kids spanging for cigarette or bus money and the truly homeless, the parking rates, canvassers and lack of decent retail & dining establishments keep me from the downtown core anymore. It's too bad too because I used to really enjoy shopping downtown.
@Matt: The only figures I could find in after a quick search were in this article (…); in 2006, according to the CEO of "Travel Oregon", statewide revenue from tourism was $7.4b. Assuming that's right, roughly half of that for Portland Metro doesn't sound too unreasonable, actually.
Kudos to whoever above mentioned that the petition gatherers are far worse than the homeless panhandlers. I've almost been hit by a car trying to avoid those fuckers. I cannot stand anyone I don't know asking me for anything they haven't earned that I couldn't give them anyhow, but I encountered more aggressive panhandling in one day in Oakland than ever in Portland. Smokers are more annoying too. You don't have a cigarette or a light? Did you bring your nicotine habit or need to borrow that too? Plus cigarette butts - as I learned during MAX ticket community service - are not biodegradible as they seem to think.
Who hasn't been rudely bumped into of forced to give way by a stroller while walking downtown? They certainly take up more space than a person sitting against the wall, yet I have not heard of a single city ordinance against them.
I also agree with the strollers and petitioners (depending on what they're petitioning, of course...haha).
So if they're petitioning for a stroller ban...?
Well honestly I was referring to the legalization of weed. I probably wouldn't go for the stroller ban in case the kid my wife and I are planning on having in a few years decides to hate being swaddled.
I really don't understand why people who support a better world for homeless bother being against this stuff. I really couldn't give two shits about anybodies right to ask me for money. They're not out there trying to express some view, they're asking for my fucking money so they can buy shit. I want a do-not-call list for the sidewalks, please.

But this doesn't even do that, and yet people are against it? It doesn't ban panhandling. It's a lame compromise that only guarantees that people WILL LET YOU WALK DOWN THE SIDEWALK. What the fuck is the point of being against that?

And geeze, panhandling doesn't help them. Cutting them off of would be a big favor to them. Most of them can afford to smoke and drink, they don't need money.
All of you whining about downtown should just stop going downtown. Stick to your quaint little suburbs and leave the urban living to the rest of us that can handle shaking our heads "no".

I live downtown, and I'd say I get bothered by five times as many canvassers as homeless people; is there any ordinance I can vote for to get rid of them?

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