Panhandling Experiences?

May 24th, 2006  |  Published in old and busted  |  1 Comment

PDX mayor to take look at panhandling complaints (reg req):

> In response to a growing number of complaints about aggressive panhandlers, Portland Mayor Tom Potter plans to set up a commission to find a way to make the streets safer.

I haven’t been downtown regularly for about two years now, so I have no idea whether there are more “aggressive panhandlers” than there were before. I did walk from Washington to the PSU campus several days a week for a year, though, and picked up a few habits as a result of getting panhandled an average of three or four times each trip: I returned eye contact, patted my pocket and shrugged if there was no money in there. If I had a quarter, I usually coughed it up.

In a year of doing that, shrugging more than paying, every single interaction stopped when I broke eye contact.

Did I get kind of tired of it? Yes, I did. And I got more and more tired of it as I began to identify the regulars, because it would take an act of willful blindness to pretend some of them were anything other than pleased with the prospect of sitting around doing nothing and getting a subsidy for it from guilty liberals. So sometimes the regulars I wasn’t so sure about got a pat of the empty pocket. Either way, doing that and breaking eye contact was always enough.

Without getting into a ton of detail on why I bothered to do anything besides ignore them, I guess it’s enough to say that if someone asks me for help, I feel like I owe them a conscious hearing, even if it means breaking my stride for a moment.

Anyhow … this entry isn’t about all that. I’m mostly curious about what experiences other Portlanders have had with “aggressive panhandling.” Anyone? Anything worse than what I described? Is this commission about safety or sparing window shoppers exposure to the lumpenproles?

p.s. First in a series of “good enough” posts, meaning I’m not gonna spend 2,000 words stammering and qualifying so everyone who ever comes across this ever continues to like me. :-)

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