What to do about Downtown homeless, begging
Original post made
by Christopher, Downtown North,
on Jul 9, 2006
I'm fairly new to town (1.5 years) and so I don't know the history of city decisions nor do I know of any past or current plans to help those who appear to be homeless and who spend their days soliciting or begging others for money on University Ave. I find their soliciting of visitors to the city to be unacceptable and if I were a local or corporate merchant paying rent on University, I would be outraged. Why do we we allow this activity to take place freely, every single day? I patronize downtown merchants almost every day and I'm approached nearly every day for money. There are days when I can't stand in front of a merchant window to look at their merchandise or window display because I feel uncomfortable knowing I'm surrounded by people holding signs, staring at me, hoping to get my attention. This is beginning to try my patience. I can assure you visitors to our city quitely note this activity to memory -"Gosh, PA is nice, but what is with all the street beggars?"
Downtown merchants, the disfornate people I describe, and our community, all deserve better. Can anyone inform me or direct me where I can make my opinion heard?
Posted by Alex Carter
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2008 at 3:08 pm
I currently panhandle in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and nearby areas.
I had a business, electronic surplus, which I ran for 10 years. The beginning of the economic collapse in mid-2007 hit hard. I actually left, to stay with a friend in N. Arizona, for a year, rather than be homeless here. Then I realized a lifetime ahead of me of Welfare and Food Stamps, which is all N. Arizona offers, is not appealing either, and to boot, if I had a falling out with my friend there or just wanted to live on my own, I'd end up joining the horde, the legion, of homeless there which is like nothing outside the Tenderloin.
So, I got on my 250cc motorcycle, small bike, and trakked out to the coast and up Route 1, and back to the bay area, where there's hope of work someday. In Arizona I'd honed skills as a caricature artist, and made some money doing that, but here in the Bay Area people are sophisticated, and don't care about caricatures much it seems.
Hence, for the time being, I panhandle. I live on a couch at a friend's, for which I pay rent. I pay my taxes (I write down what I make each day in a notebook, and will happily tell the IRS all about it). I am clean and neatly dressed, because through panhandling, I have access to a shower, kitchen, even a phone. A job search is possible - even if jobs themselves are scarce. I am always polite and tell everyone "thank you" etc. This because I'm thanking them for just hearing me, regardless if they give me anything. I'm offered food at times and I always accept it. I generally eat it right there, an offer to buy me an egg salad sandwich at Starbuck's or the taco I was bought at a Mexican place in Mountain View - I was careful to order the cheapest thing that was a real food item on the menu. I try to be the panhandler I'd want to be panhandled by.
When I moved up to the Bay Area, to Sunnyvale, from Newport Beach (I was still running my business at that time) I was very irritated by beggars at the supermarket and the post office. I wrote letters of complaint. I said nasty things to the beggars. Then, as time passed, I started befriending some. I started realizing some are scammers, but many have no other choice. I gradually formulated a policy that I'd give to them as long as they weren't rude or jerks in some way. Ones I got to know, generally rather nice people, got increasingly generous donations from me. I bought food and vitamins if they'd accept those too.
I'd also started reading about the real estate bubble, financial matters in general, an I can say that this current financial downturn was not un-forecast. I started to realize that any of those beggars could be me, or you, or anyone. It takes a frignteningly small disruption of the economy or of one's personal finances to put one on the street, where if one's family and friends are Good Americans, one will have to live on, and get off of, if one ever does, on one's own.