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Thread: panhandlers in your city (a Vent)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Floridays's avatar
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    panhandlers in your city (a Vent)

    This thread was inspired by something that happened to me today at a fast-food restaurant that is close to my workplace. I went inside to place my to-go order (I hate drive-thrus; they always eff up my order!) and was waiting at the counter for my food. Some guy, who was making the rounds and obviously panhandling, came up to me and said he'd just gotten out of jail and would I give him some money to get food. When I declined, he returned to the dining area and continued talking loudly to the other customers. As I walked towards the door, he loudly announced (more than once) that I was a "f---ing bitch." I chose to ignore it but did just write a letter to the manager, for whatever good that will do.

    Just curious if anyone else has a problem with panhandlers in their community. When I worked in downtown Atlanta, it was a HUGE issue, and now working in another large city, I find the same thing going on here.

    Anyone will tell you that I am one of the most easy-going and compassionate people you will ever meet. But I work hard and barely squeak by; it's very expensive to live here. Not whining about it; it's a choice that I made. However, if I refuse to give my well-earned cash to some psycho ex-con, I don't think I should be treated like some kind of rich, white be-yotch that just doesn't care.

    Thanks...I feel better now!

  2. #2
    I feel your pain. I live and work downtown, and my response to situations on the street that I don't trust is to never stop moving, and I certainly blank out the rude ones. I have a couple of militant vagrants on my walk home from work who are big guys. I run into them once every two weeks or so. They never seem to recognize me, curiously. Their opening line is always "Hey buddy, come here, I want to talk to you." Riiiight. I'll just slid on over into that alley with you guys. Next, it's "Stop for a minute, Come back. I want to talk to you about something." My general response is "Well, then keep up, and let's talk." (I'm a fast walker). I had a prostitute run after me for three blocks once just to borrow a quarter. I gave her a dollar because she was winded after that run.

    Some of the locals know that if they do walk along with me at my pace and are polite, I will slow down and happily chat with them and pass along a bit of my lunch or some change, whatever I can spare. The sad joke that makes me snicker inwardly is that, coming off 7 years of crushing student poverty and government loans, my financial situation is probably a hell of a lot worse than theirs, and I should by rights be asking them for change. Indeed, at many times in my life I've come awfully close to being in the same situation, and you've got to keep your empathy.

    I think it was H.L. Mencken who said "I do not usually hear or see the other, for if I were to really see or hear them, I would have to do something about it."

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Floridays
    Just curious if anyone else has a problem with panhandlers in their community. When I worked in downtown Atlanta, it was a HUGE issue, and now working in another large city, I find the same thing going on here.
    Welcome to my world

    I use to care, and would help, but then I just stopped careing. And boy does it feel good.

    I've heard ever story in the book, and for some people, they really are screwed. Then there's the ones you just want to choke .

    I really, expecially, like it, when you see them spending that SSI or Welfare check at the beginning of the month. Then they always start begging at the middle to end of the month.

    I've gotten into a few arguements with some, and I've also sat down with some and drank a 40oz. I've also been called a lot of things (bad and good) and was tempted to kick this one guy in his face. I always carrying an empty pack of cigarettes around in case somebody asks me for one. "Last one buddie" Go f-yourself .

    People like to break balls, and if its anyone who is going to break balls, its them.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Katie and I were in Chicago one (1) weekend a few years ago. We were crossing Lake Shore, in a pedestrian tunnel if I remember correctly, to go to the Shedd Aquarium. There was a guy sitting in the tunnel playing a saxaphone, with a little bucket for money $$.

    After we passed this dude, Katie says, "Ahhhhh, how sad. I want to give him $20."

    I said, "No way."

    I explained to her (I'm a numbers guy) that a certain number of people will go through that pedestrian tunnel in an hour. I further explained that if only 5% of all the people that walk through that tunnel give this guy one (1) dollar $$, he will be making more in an hour than Katie makes in a day.

    She hissed, feeling that this guy was prepared to rip her off. I explained that he was offering a "service" to passersby. If we wanted to pay for that service we could if we wanted to. I didn't want to, based on what I guessed he would make in just one (1) hour and I wasn't prepared to "get comfy" in the tunnel and enjoy his sax music for a while.

    What am I? Cold? Cruel? A realist? A person who didn't ask for sax music so I don't want to pay for it?

    Solo Saxaphone Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Warm Climate

    The warm climate is a curse for pedestrians that run the gauntlet of panhandlers every day.....yet another reason to drive a car.....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  6. #6
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bear Up North
    I explained to her (I'm a numbers guy) that a certain number of people will go through that pedestrian tunnel in an hour. I further explained that if only 5% of all the people that walk through that tunnel give this guy one (1) dollar $$, he will be making more in an hour than Katie makes in a day.
    I'm one of those people that offer up the money to the musicians more times than not. It's one of my favourite things about living in the City are the roving musicians. The sound of saxaphones or guitars reverberating through subway tunnels makes the experience of those areas much better and lifts my mood quite a bit. I don't know what it is about acoustic music in urban environments, but I'm a total sucker for it. There is a guy that plays guitar on the way into Rexall place (where the Oilers play when they aren't on strike) and I always give him change. I even now know that he'll be there in any weather condition so I'll usually bring enough toonies for parking and a loonie or two for him. I'm a sucker, I know.

    All other panhandlers it's a case by case basis. If they look like they really need it (and aren't just faking), and IF I have the money handy in a pocket and don't have to dig through a purse or something where I would leave myself open to some type of attack or pickpocket, then I'll usually give a bit of change. But for me, the days of having change in pockets are few and far between, since I do almost everything by debit and online banking these days.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    While I will sometimes give money to a musicuan, who is, after all, performing a community service in adding life to the street, I will never give money to panhandlers. Most of the time, it goes to fund purchases of tobacco, alchohol and drugs. They get their food and shelter from human service organizations. I would rather support these.

    Madison has a law against aggressive panhandling. There is a required distance they must maintain from doorways and ATMs. Any aggressive behavior - intimidating or coming toward a person, foul language, etc. - may be cited by the police, who can remove the person. I once had one following me, trying to pressure or intimidate me into giving him something after I firmly said "no." I was about fifteen seconds from launching him over the bridge into the Chicago River when he gave up. As for you criminal, I would have just turned to him and told him I could easily arrange his return to jail.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  8. #8

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    Well, San Francisco is certainly panhandler central (mild, if chilly climate and relatively tolerant population+a gigantic poverty industrial complex of well-meaning agencies and non-profits).

    I generally don't give too much, but sometimes I will, depending on mood and if I have handy change.

    I am more sympathetic to the musicians than the flat-out beggars. Don't have much of a problem with aggressive panhandlers because 1. I usually dress down, and 2. I often have a dog or three with me (My beasts love longgggg city hikes)

    Vacaville has a "tribe" of useless layabouts that often colonize our downtown park. I overheard one crusty whining about how the Public Service Officers don't "seem to want us in town." We are talking lazy hippies here, not a laid-off single mom down on her luck. I agree with the CSO's opinion of this "Fun Bunch."

  9. #9
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    When I was in grad school, I walked to school many days and had to cross the pedestrian bridge on the edge of UM, where pandhandlers hung out. Just about every day a young, obviously healthy guy would approach me and ask for money. Some days I gave him change, and other days, not. Finally fed up, I asked him why he didn't get a job. He said the only jobs available in Missoula paid minimum wage and he wouldn't work for minimum wage. I told him that I worked two minimum wage jobs to afford to live and go to college. He didn't get any more of my money.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    In Orlando, panhandlers are restricted to certain sites where boxes are drawn on the sidewalk; they have to stay inside those boxes.

    In our nearby town, when I worked downtown, they were pretty constant, mostly pretending their car broke down and they needed gas money. They hung around the county administration building and approached employees who went out back for a smoke.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    I've offered them personal checks before. I don't get bugged by them anymore.

    edit: I've also handed the job classifieds to one before.

    I gave money in the past, a dollar here or there.. but in the last 6 years...nada.
    Last edited by boiker; 21 Oct 2004 at 8:45 AM.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I used to live in Uptown, which is panhandler central for Chicago. They really don't bother me anymore (except when they reek). You shouldn't ever make eye contact with them. And only talk if you have to to get rid of them. Usually a hand motion is better (the hand motion takes some work, it has to express extreme indifference so they know their pitch won't work). If you have to talk to them, be as short and curt as possible. Once one tried following me asking repeatedly for money, so while looking straight foward, I said "you can follow me all the way home but you aren't going to get any money." So he slinked away.

    Most of them are head-cases (thank Ronney for shutting the hospitals down), but they're mostly harmless. If they were going to mug you they'd have done it before you got a good look at their face anyway. There are a lot of home invasions in Uptown though.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    After spending ample amounts of time in Memphis (when I was at Ole Miss is north Miss.) and Miami, and some time in abroad in poor countries...I have become immune. (these are all places with heavy panhandling).

    One time about a year ago in Miami I was pumping gas and a guy drove up to the pump next to me and gave me the "I dont have my wallet and need to get home" story. I told him to use the payphone, make and make a collect call to a friend. He drove off instead. "I thought so", I thought.

    As I was leaving, I saw him circle back in to the same gas station...what a scam.

    I want to help people out, but refuse to give away my money, unless I am sure it is legitimate, like to a shelter or something.

    EDIT: the other day on campus of FSU a guy (appeared to be a student) was walking past me on the sidewalk and as he passed he said, "you got an extra dollar?" I of course said "no" and we both just kept walking. This was wierd. I think he was just walking to class and asking everyone he passed for a dollar. I bet he picks up several dollars a day like this. *sigh* what a sorry fact.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Not much of a problem out here in the sticks. In fact, It might cost the aggressive panhandler a tooth or two. Its amazing that guys like them often accidentally strike their heads two or three times while being placed in the back of the patrol car. Having no ACLU chapters in small cities is a blessing at times.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    One thing I have noticed is panhandlers asking passersby for change, then if they refuse and their skin color is appropriate, they accuse the person of being racist for not giving money. The person, not wanting to be labeled a racist, gives a dollar or two. The sad thing is that I have seen it work more than once.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I'm used to hardluck panhandlers in Providence and Boston but Portland, OR has a huge population of the "dropout" panhandlers - the college age kids who decide it'd be cool to live in Pioneer Sq. full time. A kid asked me for money who looked about 21 and clean cut like he just stepped off campus. Portland's great in many ways but I kept having to say "no I don't have any money" and "no I don't want any pot" every 2 minutes.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    Last Friday, the Mrs...Star and I were finishing dinner at an Inner Harbor restaurant, and a guy comes up to me and asks if he could have my sandwich. We were in the bar area of the restaurant. I couldn't believe it. I used to help people when I lived in Omaha. However, in Baltimore they can be really aggressive. The sad thing is that I feel sorry for some.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    We have quite a large homeless population here, many of whom hang out in the park across from my office and most of whom are quite obviously mentally ill. I'm talking screaming at the light post mentally ill. I tend to direct panhandlers to the homeless shelter a few blocks away. Of course, this usually gets a response along the lines of "I don't like the food they serve there." Whatever. I used to be a bit more sympathetic, but responses like that have seriously calloused me. In college and grad school, the Trustafarians irritated me the most. I'm really sorry that a job conflicts with your life's ambition of following the Dead/Phish/Widespread Panic, but no, I cannot spare any change. I knew enough of these kids well enough to know that they came from very well off families.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    We have a lot of panhandlers here. No doubt they prey on naive college students who think they're really making a difference. I have never given them any money and most of them are friendly when I turn them down. I never ignore them, just say "sorry." Like, Cardinal, I sometimes will give a dollar to someone playing music. I think it's a really nice thing to have on the street (though the talent can be debatable) and in subways.

  20. #20
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Here in Cleveland, and back in Buffalo, panhendlers are rare. Maybe it's the weather that scares them off. I used to encounter the same mother hauling around a baby, looking for $5 for "a place to stay" in Buffalo's Allentown district for a couple of years; she was very aggressive, calling people racist if they didn't give her money There is the rare old-school bum; white guys with long beards that shake a cup of change while they're sitting on the sidewalk, but that's about it.

    "Will work for food" guys were very common in Denver, as were teenage runaways along the 16th Street Mall. Boulder has a lot of college-aged trustifarians that think panhandling is somehow "cool," hoping the spare change they get will supplement the $50K allowance their parents give them while they're taking a year off of college to travel "the circuit" of cities that includes Santa Fe and Telluride. I've never seen any "Will work for food" guys in Cleveland or Buffalo.

    I love it when guys my age or younger claim to be Vietnam vets. The record was probably a panhandler in downtown Las Cruces in the early 1990s, a "Vietnam veteran" who looked like he was about 18 years old.



    Hey, Seabishiop, want some pot?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Achernar's avatar
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    Cambridge is great for this. Harvard Square is a pandhandler nexus, and they're all friendly and non-agressive (though I acknowledge that I'm male and a woman by herself may have a different experience). I think it's because it's so dense it's not worthwhile to pursue one person and miss 10 who walk by in the meantime. I've never been accused of racism, and I give much less often than Bear Up North's estimate of 5% of the time. The ones I hate are high school kids who aren't even dropouts - they just have nothing better to do at night than sit on a corner smoking asking for change.

    There's also a big distinction between panhandlers and street performers here, and it's strange when I see people compare them. Giving to the street performers - who all have day jobs I'm sure - is no more philanthropic than paying for a movie ticket.

    And then there are scam artists. I don't give cash to "save the forests / whales / children / Democrats" drives on the street anymore because I'm so bad at recognizing scams.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Here in Cleveland, and back in Buffalo, panhendlers are rare. Maybe it's the weather that scares them off.
    They're not rare here anymore, Dan. I think they always existed and are now just more obnoxious, unless I'm some sort of begger magnet . I'll take a census of them as soon as I walk outside to get lunch
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Hey, Seabishiop, want some pot?
    Actually, do you have any of that crack left? That was yummy. I'll pay you tomorrow.

    That west coast vibe was weird - slow, curteous drivers, and all. I'm used to drug dealers being shadowy thugs in bad neighborhoods, not neo-hippies in the park. Everybody was so m - e - l - l - o - w.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    I never give money. I work in Old Town Scottsdale. It is a tourist destination and I rarely see panhandlers here. I did see a street couple bathing in a fountain under bridge recently. Near my home we we have the freeway ones, but it isn't bad. When I was in Tucson, it was bad. I lived off campus and walked to class along popular routes. Some were agressive and I got the name calling sometimes.

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Here in Cleveland, and back in Buffalo, panhendlers are rare. Maybe it's the weather that scares them off. I used to encounter the same mother hauling around a baby, looking for $5 for "a place to stay" in Buffalo's Allentown district for a couple of years; she was very aggressive, calling people racist if they didn't give her money There is the rare old-school bum; white guys with long beards that shake a cup of change while they're sitting on the sidewalk, but that's about it.

    "Will work for food" guys were very common in Denver, as were teenage runaways along the 16th Street Mall. Boulder has a lot of college-aged trustifarians that think panhandling is somehow "cool," hoping the spare change they get will supplement the $50K allowance their parents give them while they're taking a year off of college to travel "the circuit" of cities that includes Santa Fe and Telluride. I've never seen any "Will work for food" guys in Cleveland or Buffalo.

    I love it when guys my age or younger claim to be Vietnam vets. The record was probably a panhandler in downtown Las Cruces in the early 1990s, a "Vietnam veteran" who looked like he was about 18 years old.



    Hey, Seabishiop, want some pot?
    A skeptic did some investigation of one of the leading lights of the "homeless Vietnam Vet" community that was purportedly so traumetized by the war. It turns out he served his time stateside in the supply chain and never even saw any blood. (I am not saying that war does not cause serious post-traumatic stress disorder, just that many of the "vets" are scammers.)

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