September 30, 2009

"One female UW-Madison student spoke out and said that by renovating the park, the homeless would be driven out, no help would be provided to them and they would have nowhere else to go."

Why, in a city the size of Madison, which has numerous parks of all sizes, is a tiny little park on the most important commercial street downtown, the only place for homeless people to go?
The student also said she feared that if an ATM were installed in the proposed visitors center, which is part of the plan, then the homeless would be forced to panhandle farther away from the park because of a law prohibiting panhandling within a certain distance of an ATM.
So there you have it. "Go" means panhandle. The student is sympathetic with the people who want to panhandle, and presumably they like to be on a street that is teeming with pedestrians — which State Street is because of all the hard work and money business people have put into the shops and restaurants. State Street, I'd say, is one of the best places in the world for pedestrians, and yet you cannot walk down the street — unless you strategically switch sides along the way – without being asked for money by a man shaking a cup. Now, many, many students, especially the young ladies, are soft-hearted. They'll put dollars into those cups. Lord knows why students have that much money — and why they're not analytical enough to see that it would do more good to spend whatever extra cash they might have in one of the stores or cafés.

ADDED: Before you call me a sexist, let me add that "especially the young ladies" is based on years of observation of who gives money to the panhandlers on State Street. I am projecting a reason why people give money to panhandlers. I tend to think that it is soft-heartedness that moves people — of either sex — to give money to panhandlers. It's simple, spontaneous charity that is disaggregated from any larger economic or moral analysis. It could also be feelings of guilt or shame or a desire to please God or out of rebellion against parents who've told them not to give money to panhandlers — parents or other authority figure, such as law professors.

47 comments:

Robert Burnham said...

Panhandlers meet soft-hearted students; predators meet prey.

One wonders how many of the students actually earned those dollars they are giving away.

AJ Lynch said...

And you, a future Republican.


wv = hartless [I am not making this up-well maybe just a tad]

ricpic said...

Son or daughter of well-to-do parents: easiest mark in the world.

Beth said...

The panhandlers will have to commute, like the rest of us.

kk said...

I think I remember that some U of M students did a study once and determined that the average panhandler in Ann Arbor was making something like $15k a year.

wv: dotas - soft-hearted ladies who give money to panhandlers that have more money than they do.

SteveR said...

Yeah its Daddy's money you are being so "generous" with, as if a couple bucks will remove your guilt. Get your pretty butt down to a shelter or soup kitchen.

prairie wind said...

I think it is natural to want to help someone down on their luck but some of the soft-hearted need to know what really helps and what does not. Giving an addict money that he can use for his addiction is not helpful. Giving a hungry man a burger is helpful.

jayne_cobb said...

In Pittsburgh you can always tell when the freshmen are moving in due to the increase in the amount of panhandlers in Oakland (well that and the massive traffic jams).

I swear the number of them triples.

My favorite was the guy who walked up to me and said, "Listen I'm not going to lie to you, I'm just going to use this for alcohol."

class-factotum said...

My husband has had his vacation slashed, had his salary frozen, and will not be getting a bonus this year. He and three co-workers are doing the work that 8 used to do. (Yes, that means staying up all night working at least one day a week.)

If he is having to work harder for less, why shouldn't the beggars?

k*thy said...

Kids, these days, with their kind-heartedness. It's just a phase. Give them time to crust over and become cynical.

prairie wind said...

Those softhearted girls are conservatives.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Now, many, many students, especially the young ladies, are soft-hearted.

Or more accurately, soft-brained. Giving a homeless guy a dollar may warm your cockles but it doesn't do much for the bum. Giving him a job would actually help the guy out but that's too obvious.

I always found it amusing that back in the day when unemployment was 5%, I saw the same guys on the streets in Indy begging for a buck yet was constantly being told we needed 10-15 million illegal aliens to do the jobs Americans would not do.

Thus Pancho and Cisco walked from Mexico to Indianapolis and found a job but I'm supposed to feel sorry for the asshole shaking a cup in my face. Hold on while I get out my violin.

Quayle said...

Giving a hungry man a burger is helpful.

That has always been my thought.

And then one time I saw the panhandler take the burger I had bought him back into the Burger King, and he came out counting cash and ran right over to the liquor store.

I guess he had a deal worked out where he could return food the "wise" people gave him.

AJ Lynch said...

Cisco Keeeed was a friend of mine...

Thanks Hoosier- now I hae that song in my head.

class-factotum said...

he could return food the "wise" people gave him.

Note to self: Never eat at a fast-food restaurant near homeless people again.

Shanna said...

ADDED: Before you call me a sexist, let me add that "especially the young ladies" is based on years of observation of who gives money to the panhandlers on State Street.

When I was in school (not in Madison), it was my guy friends who were always giving money to people, usually change out of their pocket. (I only gave money to people who were playing an instrument-but I usually gave them more than change).

But I don’t know anybody who would have been annoyed if they made the homeless go to a different park. Madison is weird. And I’m unclear why there is going to be an ATM in a park. That seems strange to me.

And then one time I saw the panhandler take the burger I had bought him back into the Burger King, and he came out counting cash and ran right over to the liquor store.

Really? Wow. I gave food to people when they asked, but they were almost always grouchy about it (one lady approached us at a picnic we were trying to have in a park and asked for food, we gave her mac and cheese in a paper cup and she complained that we didn't have a tupperware, or pre-wrapped stuff!!! We're like lady, you approached us, do you want the food or not? Geez)

prairie wind said...

You'll find jerks and layabout among the homeless; no surprise there. I see a lot of mentally ill and addicts, too, and those people do need our help. Instead of telling them to shove off or directing them to the nearest government program, do what you can to help them. Supporting the private shelters is better than increasing dependence on government programs.

AllenS said...

Often times, young ladies are afraid to say no. 13 year olds know that if you say no, something bad may still happen.

garage mahal said...

Makes you wonder why Jesus chose to hang around these types of people, don't it. Everlasting punishment for not feeding and clothing these people? "He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker? WTF? Um, hello? They reek! It ruins my whole State Street experience on the way to my favorite coffee shop where they make those super cool smiley faces in my coffee.

Shanna said...

My favorite was the guy who walked up to me and said, "Listen I'm not going to lie to you, I'm just going to use this for alcohol."

This line worked really well on guys I used to work with.

In my experience, most people asking for "money for food" would not take food when offered.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Makes you wonder why Jesus chose to hang around these types of people, don't it.

Well garage, back in Jesus's day, your average homeless guy and gals we're lepers or folks who had the unfortunate luck of being born with disease or deformaties which tended to make them unfit for work.

Whereas today they tend to be drug addicts, alcoholics or simple con-men. There is a mission just down the street from where I work and I know one of the volunteers who works there. Nice sweet girl who is your sterotypical crunch granola liberal. Well that's what she looks like anyway. In reality she's quite a bitch according to some of the local homeless folks because she actually enforces the no booze, drugs or cigarretes rule that this particular mission has.

Lem said...

Now, many, many students, especially the young ladies, are soft-hearted.

It reminds me of the panhandling scene in Slaker (1991)

Original Mike said...

Lord knows why students ... [are]not analytical enough to see that it would do more good to spend whatever extra cash they might have in one of the stores or cafés.

If you're 20 and not liberal, you have no heart. If you're 40 and not conservative, you have no brain.

MadisonMan said...

And I’m unclear why there is going to be an ATM in a park. That seems strange to me.

The ATM is being put in there just so the law prohibiting panhandling within x feet of an ATM can be enforced.

Rich said...

Personally I support the Untied Way.

garage mahal said...


Well garage, back in Jesus's day, your average homeless guy and gals we're lepers or folks who had the unfortunate luck of being born with disease or deformaties which tended to make them unfit for work.
.

Jesus' concern for the poor wasn't limited to physical well being, but their spiritual well being as well. Do we only seek out good prospects for the church? James warned us about this form of discrimination! "have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? … If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors". Convicted by law as transgressors. Ouch.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Jesus' concern for the poor wasn't limited to physical well being, but their spiritual well being as well. Do we only seek out good prospects for the church?

Yes he did garage. You win a cookie. What exactly is your point though? I mean you do have one don't you?

Shanna said...

The ATM is being put in there just so the law prohibiting panhandling within x feet of an ATM can be enforced.

It seems like putting an ATM in a park is more likely to cause the park to be a target for theft, but I don’t live there, so I’m not sure if that’s an accurate representation. There is no way I would go to an ATM that was hidden behind trees.

Triangle Man said...

"Listen I'm not going to lie to you, I'm just going to use this for alcohol."

I've seen a panhandler with a "Why lie, I just need a beer" sign in three major cities.

Triangle Man said...

It shouldn't have taken this much, but I finally gave up giving money to panhandlers after seeing a couple of undercover reports on the news about a few guys who would panhandle all day, then walk around the corner and drive away in a nice car. They were clearing more money than I was at the time, working 60 hours a week.

miller said...

I don't mind people giving panhandlers money. I usually don't, but if others want to do it, feel free.

chuck b. said...

Girls like to do things that daddy tells them not to.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Next year the signs may read "No money, no job, required by law to buy health insurance".

rhhardin said...

There's no panhandling out in the country, except by roosters.

Rooster: (stands outside garage)

Me: You want something to eat?

Rooster: (flaps wings)

Drethelin said...

my problem with the state street panhandlers is it seems like most of them are overweight.

prairie wind said...

I never give money or food or smiles to the guys with a "Anything helps" or "Lost my job" sign. They stand at the interesection day after day, as regular as clockwork. All day, every day. I'd be more sympathetic if they weren't standing next to a Taco Bell with a "help wanted" sign posted. If they can get to that intersection every day, they can get to the Taco Bell every day.

Ann Althouse said...

@Lem Ha ha. I was thinking about that scene (in "Slacker") when I wrote this post.

Smilin' Jack said...

Jesus' concern for the poor wasn't limited to physical well being...

If Jesus is so concerned for the poor He can help them Himself. He's a lot richer than I am, since He owns, like, the whole universe.

Hazy Dave said...

If you Google Map Street View 460 State St. or 236 W Gilman St. in Madison, you'll see that Peace Park is perhaps less of a "park" than some may be imagining. Not much of a place for a picnic unless you're drinking it directly from the brown paper sack.

former law student said...

they would have nowhere else to go

The city should set up a Mendicants' Preserve, akin to the Free Speech Zones that airports used to provide for the Hare Krishnas, the Moonies, and the LaRouchies.

For months, the freeway off ramp I used to use every morning had a female beggar. She looked strung out and weird. Finally she disappeared. Later a woman claiming to be the beggar's mother appeared with a sign excoriating those of us who had helped support the daughter's drug habit.

Later a "will work for food" guy took her place. One morning I went in late, arriving at the off-ramp around 10 AM. The beggar packed up his backpack and strode off -- apparently his shift was over.

I knew the "will work for food" sign was a scam because, unlike the Latinos waiting outside Home Depot every morning, the "will work for food" guy never jumped into a pickup for a day's work grubbing up shrubbery, or scraping old shingles off roof, or setting fence posts.

Triangle Man said...

Perhaps Madison can next do something about the West High School urchins loitering at the corner of Allen St. and Chadbourne. Who are they, to enjoy smoking their cigarettes and sipping their lattes from the Froth House enjoying one of the last warm sunny days of the season on a public right-of-way?

Triangle Man said...

I don't know that the Madison panhandlers are this sophisticated, but it is a job.

JohnAnnArbor said...

I knew the "will work for food" sign was a scam because, unlike the Latinos waiting outside Home Depot every morning, the "will work for food" guy never jumped into a pickup for a day's work grubbing up shrubbery, or scraping old shingles off roof, or setting fence posts.

My old barber on Ann Arbor's State Street says guys would walk in and ask for $5. He'd say "sure," then hand them a broom. "Sweep my walk." "Oh, no, no" and out the door again!

I gave a guy near State Street one of those gold-colored dollar coins, asking "seen one of those?" as I walked past. Long pause. When I was ten yards past, he called out "Hey, that's a buck! Thanks!"

John Lynch said...

I think people who have never been poor are more likely to give to panhandlers.

If you've been poor, then you know that you've never had to do that, and the men (notice it's almost always men) who panhandle are there by choice.

fivewheels said...

Years ago, I asked out a seemingly bright, charming, beautiful young lady I was a bit smitten with. On our way to our first dinner, we passed a bum and she put a five in his cup.

Over the course of the meal I learned that we were not going to be compatible. She was a soft-headed Oprah-watching type who was prone to believe any stupid thing that would make her feel good about herself — new-agey reincarnation bullshit, for instance, and even those bogus emails like the KFC hoax. A well-meaning dingbat.

But I learned most of what I needed to know when she dropped that fiver. That's the act of someone who isn't thinking about the effects of what she does. (It's also the act of someone who knows she's not paying for her duck with chanterelles.)

People who support panhandlers think they're being compassionate, but how is that true? Is a dollar, or five, really going to help them, or simply help them stay in that condition? You're only perpetuating their vagrancy, not helping to end it. Being an easy mark only creates greater demand for your naivete. And the guy is not going to starve or not starve based on your one dollar or five. Other than your self-satisfaction, what is the practical upside?

JohnAnnArbor said...

One homelss guy I watched on campus years ago was interesting. Never panhandled, never said a word. Swept through areas rapidly and energetically, finding all the returnable cans and bottles (10 cents in Michigan; students would often leave them on top of trash cas for homeless to pick up). Over time, I noted he had gotten a new jacket, reasonable clothes, a nice bag to gather cans in. Then he never appeared again. He seemed to be thinking ahead, saving the money towards the goal of not doing the can thing anymore. I hope so at least.

Christopher said...

Ann (or Althouse -- I'm not sure which you prefer),

From what I've seen, I know that a lot of young women are a soft touch when it comes to panhandling bums.

But I also know that, in my neck of the woods, panhandlers tend to get a little more aggressive with young women too, they'll approach, pursue, and even berate them, so paying off these bums becomes a kind of protection racket.

How are the bums where you are?