Friday, September 2, 2011

What are your Panhandler Rules?

If you're like me (and there is almost no chance of this, I realize that, it's just an expression), on your daily perambulations through the City, you encounter a variety of panhandlers, homeless and otherwise. As with most things in my life, I'm often perplexed about how to handle this fraught situation and so I'm croudsourcing this issue to find out what it is you do.

As I work in the Civic Center area, which is part of/maybe just immediately adjacent the Tenderloin, I see some of the same panhandlers every day.

There is the oddly well-put-together woman who I've written about before who posts up at the corner of Grove and Larkin during commute hours (she's there roughly 7:30-9 am and then 4 to about 6 pm) silently holding a sheaf of Street Sheets and who doesn't look homeless or even really troubled in any way; in fact, she would not be out of place waiting on you in a diner or something. NOT HOLDING THAT AGAINST HER; I'm just saying, it's kinda weird.

(I wrote that prior post about her in 2009. She's still out there, basically every day. I continue to be really curious about what her deal is but I really don't want to stop and talk to her because I pass her every day, usually twice a day, and I don't want to set up a thing where I have to stop and talk to her every day. It has nothing to do with her being homeless; I don't want to stop and talk to anyone twice a day. I'm not one of those people who hangs around their corner store trading neighborhood gossip or that kind of thing.)

(OH SNAP I just looked at the Google Street View for Grove & Larkin and thought I saw her but it's just some chick with a coffee. Goes to show how normal she looks.)

There's the Bearded Disheveled Guy Who's Always Reading a Paperback Book. He can be found in Civic Center Station pretty much all the time. I've actually given him money before.

There's a whole crowd that hangs out around the Main Library. One of them is a guy who wears Rollerblades all the time and skates around passing a football back and forth with one of his comrades. In all fairness, I've never seen him ask anyone for money, so maybe he just likes to wear Rollerblades and throw the rock around and hang out by the library.

UNRELATED: Check out the cool Street View Dog on the corner of Larkin and Golden Gate! AWWWWW, PUPPY!!!!

And so on. My point is, when you see your Regular Panhandlers, what do you do? Do you give them money?

Or I guess, what are your usual Giving Money to Panhandler Rules? I mean, in SF, you probably get hit up for money 5 to 12 times a day unless you're Richie Rich and live in Pacific Heights and drive your Volvo to work and your secretary brings lunch to you. So what are your giving money rules? When do you toss a buck at a panhandler?

(RELATED STORY - I remember reading somewhere years ago about an invitation to some fancy-ass party in a part of town where there were obviously panhandlers and the invitation asked guests to not give money to the "outdoorsmen." Outdoorsmen! FAVORITE HOMELESS EUPHEMISM.)

Have a nice holiday weekend at Burning Man or whatever it is you do. I guess if you're at Burning Man you're not reading this anyway.

Also, I'm still on jury duty but hopefully only for another week and then everything will be back to normal.

Also, we're trying out Boxing Room tonight and I'll totally tell you if it's good or what. Smoked Chicken & Andouille Gumbo! FUCK YEAH. Speaking of restaurant websites, THANK YOU FOR NOT AUTOPLAYING DIXIELAND JAZZ ON YOUR WEBSITE BOXING ROOM. I KNOW THAT MUST HAVE BEEN NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST.

OK, I'm done now.


GG said...

I always have my big can-style headphones on and am looking at my phone, so I pretend I don't hear or see them, because I am a total unsympathetic asshole. Really, it's self-preservation -- the number of homeless people in this city would kill me emotionally if I tried to care about even some of them. What really gets me are the ones that look like they are either dead or sleeping on the sidewalk. I cringe every time I think about how they might actually need medical attention and for someone to stop and check on them, but I can't call 911 ten times a day, so I usually just walk by and feel guilty about it later. None of this is helpful, I realize.

But yeah, its one of the frustrating things about living in SF. When I was spending a lot of time in Chicago, I noticed how comparatively rare homeless people were there, and it really brought into focus how de-sensitized to their presence I've become... which I don't think is a good thing.

Cameron Ross said...

I usually just say "sorry, no" when they ask and do my best to look them in the eye. Putting myself in their lousy would it be to ask people a question all day long and not even be afforded acknowledgement? I don't think giving away money is a solution to the issue. Plus I watched a homeless guy wail on my locked bike while I was eating at the Monk's Kettle one night. He is not a good poster child for the city's outdoorsmen. Maybe they need a union...

Scurvy said...

I never give them money. The people you see on the street asking for money aren't homeless. They're street people. They CHOOSE to be there. The real homeless are the families with children, hidden from sight. Those homeless people need real help and they usually do get it through SF's gigantic social safety net. They're pretty well taken care of, though we could use more shelters dedicated to families and less to single individuals. The individuals are almost always there by choice (or law in the case of sex offenders). So no, I don't give them any money. I put my money in a savings account to make sure I never do end up living on the streets.

Stoney said...

I almost never give any money. I usually say "sorry."

If asked nicely (and assuming I'm not at the very end of the pack) I'll give a cigarette to just about anybody. I will not "sell" them a cigarette for $.50, I'll give it to them. But if they ask for a second one, or if a buddy asks for one too, I get very annoyed.

Lisa said...

I never give money. I'm a heartless bastard like everyone else on this list seems to be, also believe our city services are hugely geared to them, and my family all works in public service helping them out so I figure that's enough.

More to the point: Boxing Room is SO GOOD. Have all the Abita. (Now I'm craving a fried shrimp po'boy. Thanks.)

GG said...

"The individuals are almost always there by choice"

Hmmmm. Oh yeah,

See, TK, that's how it's done. No self-inflicted face punches necessary ;)

sfmike said...

I never give money to panhandlers, and as a previous commenter mentioned, they're not homeless, begging is their job. When I moved to the Civic Center neighborhood about twenty years ago, the first thing I did was say "hello" or "good morning" to every regular who was doing the homeless panhandling scene as I walked by them while politely saying "no" when they asked for money. If they continued asking for money repeatedly as the days wore on, I'd say, "This is my neighborhood, I walk these sidewalks every day, remember my face, and stop asking me for money." It seemed to work, and continues to do so for newbie panhandlers in the neighborhood.

The guy with rollerblades and the football is one of my favorite characters in San Francisco. He's got great energy, and I've never seen him begging. Pushing a shopping cart full of recyclables up Market Street yes, but asking for money from strangers no.

As for the rush hour woman, I don't walk that corner, but she sounds like a woman who used to hang out at Franklin and Grove before performances at the Opera or the Symphony. She had a perfect guilt-inducing look, rather like a middle-aged Marin housewife who had fallen on hard times, and she made an absolute bundle off of "there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I" women coming from Jardinierre (or these days, The Boxing Room) on their way to an expensive cultural evening.

Tamagosan said...

PUPPY! Oh wait, what? Homeless something...?

So many sides to this issue. (So many sides to puppies, too!!!) Being compassionate is tough, but there is enough love to go around. Money is harder, and you can't save everyone. I can barely manage to take care of myself and "manage" is really pushing it to begin with...

Bleeding hearts like me somehow find solace (and, surprisingly, not too smugly) in giving time/money/goods to *local* organizations that make a difference for those struggling. My charity of choice is the Hamilton Family Shelter, but any organization will do, such as the Tamagosan Fund for the Betterment of Vacations Through Scuba Diving. (Info available upon request.)


NikkiL said...

I never give money out of principal because you never know what they're going to spend it on. There is one guy who is always outside the McDonald's on Front street. On the rare occasion when I go in there I might get him some fries or chicken nuggets. I realize the nutritional value is negligible but if you're hungry it probably doesn't matter too much. When I lived in LA, a lot would hang out near supermarkets and then I would get them some fruit but for some reason SF homeless don't do that. They must not like fruit.

Dan said...

I used to work near Civic Center, at a design studio with big glass windows and a glass door. There was a guy who had a obsessive-compulsive need to stand outside the glass door at the same hour every morning and smudge his forehead into the glass door. I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP. There was a prominent oil patch on the door from Smudger's daily visit. It was really dark (the situation, I mean, not the stain).

I generally agree with the not-giving-money rationales offered up by others, but I do find that when I come back to SF after a long absence, my defenses are down and I'm all susceptible in a fresh-off-the-boat kind of way. My friend got pissed at me last Saturday because I didn't have my defenses up and kept giving people money and stuff and saying things like, "Yah, of course-- if you are in need" with a concerned German accent.

GG said...

Relevant/of interest?